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Development Of Professional Communication Skills Throughout The Bme Curriculum

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Communication and Professional Skills in BME

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Page Count


Page Numbers

12.504.1 - 12.504.6



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Paper Authors

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Willis Tompkins University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Naomi Chesler University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Walter Block University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Kristyn Masters University of Wisconsin-Madison

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William Murphy University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Mitchell Tyler University of Wisconsin-Madison

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John Webster University of Wisconsin-Madison

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

Development of Professional Communication Skills Throughout the BME Curriculum


A sequence of six design courses are required in the undergraduate biomedical engineering curriculum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This sequence of courses provide a platform for students to develop and improve their oral and written communication skills. After taking a freshman engineering design course, each student admitted to biomedical engineering in the sophomore year does a team design project each semester for six sequential semesters. The teams work on progressively more challenging real-world projects submitted by clients from around the university and from industry. While advancing their technical and problem-solving skills through successive projects, the students also learn interpersonal and public communication skills through this experience.


Beginning in 1998, we started teaching a sequence of design courses to all students in biomedical engineering beginning when they are admitted to the B.S. degree program in the first semester of their sophomore year1,2,3. Design courses throughout the curriculum form a unique feature of the BME undergraduate degree program. Every BME student registers for a design course and works on a client-based design project every semester for six consecutive semesters. These six design courses constitute a total of eight degree credits. All the courses are one credit except the 3-credit capstone design course in the first semester of the senior year. These design courses are supervised by faculty advisers. Each faculty member has a weekly two-hour meeting in a computer lab with his/her teams. The courses provide a platform for professional communication throughout the curriculum as well as a relevant structure to discuss many issues related to design including intellectual property, professionalism, entrepreneurialism, engineering ethics, and the need for lifelong learning.

All the design projects are client-based, real-world design problems, solicited primarily from the medical and life sciences faculty around the university, as well as from biomedical engineering companies. Also we do projects with individuals who have specific rehabilitation needs. The design faculty team reviews the proposed projects and chooses those that are well matched to the students’ abilities and likely to result in physical prototypes. Once a team of four students is formed and chooses a project, the team interacts with their client and advisor to define the specifications for their project and maintains a dialog with their client throughout the course. The client provides meaningful feedback as the design progresses as well as access to the appropriate clinical or research setting. Faculty are fully responsible for all aspects of the design courses. We do not use teaching assistants.

The Figure shows relationships among the six design courses. As part of the overall goals of learning the design process and creating a physical prototype, each of the courses has different individual goals.

Tompkins, W., & Chesler, N., & Block, W., & Masters, K., & Murphy, W., & Tyler, M., & Webster, J. (2007, June), Development Of Professional Communication Skills Throughout The Bme Curriculum Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2748

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