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Development Of Communication Skills Across The Engineering Curriculum

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Graphics Applications in ME

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.423.1 - 7.423.14



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Paper Authors

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Richard Wilk

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

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Development of Communication Skills Across the Engineering Curriculum

Richard D. Wilk and Ann M. Anderson Mechanical Engineering Department Union College Schenectady, NY


The ability to communicate effectively has been identified as an important attribute of a well- rounded engineering graduate. We have identified four major areas of emphasis in the ME curriculum: written, oral, graphical and electronic communication. An across-the-curriculum approach is taken whereby each of these is introduced early on and then reinforced throughout the curriculum through a variety of different experiences. This paper describes the methods used to develop students’ abilities in each of these areas, the ways in which each of these areas are incorporated and integrated vertically into the ME curriculum.


Over the past several years the goals of engineering education have expanded to include emphasis on non-technical attributes that complement a strong technical foundation to produce a well-rounded engineering graduate. These include communication skills, the ability to function in teams, knowledge of societal and contemporary issues, development of global perspective, and ethics awareness. Some have referred to these as “soft” skills. This characterization is misleading though, implying that these abilities are secondary to or more easily developed than “hard” technical expertise. On the contrary, a great importance of these abilities to engineering education has emerged over the last decade1 and ABET Engineering Criteria 2000 has targeted many of these as essential program outcomes in order for engineering programs to be accredited. It is probably more appropriate to refer to these as contextual and process skills, the term used by the National Advisory Council1, in its report “Engineering Education for a Changing World.” Co-chair of this council and former Martin Marietta CEO Norman Augustine coined the term Socioengineering2 that sought to describe the combination of the contextual and process skills with the elements of traditional engineering education, all seen critical for success in the twenty- first century. In particular, he cited the lack of the ability of engineers to communicate effectively as the greatest shortcoming in current engineering education. Geppert 3 contends that the ability of engineers to communicate effectively has always been important to industry and academia but it matters even more today because of the growing complexity of systems and the cross-disciplinary-team approach to engineering.

Consequently, many engineering programs are now addressing the issue of communication. There are a variety of ways to teach students about communication. One method is to offer a formal semester long course (or courses) on communication (see for example Friauf and McGeen4). These types of courses are taught primarily by faculty in communications

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Wilk, R. (2002, June), Development Of Communication Skills Across The Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10826

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