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"Duct Tape is Magic and Should be Worshipped" - Fiction in a First-Year Design and Communication Class

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

1st and 2nd Year Instruction in Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Marjan Eggermont University of Calgary

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Marjan Eggermont is the current Associate Dean (Student Affairs) and a Senior Instructor and faculty member at the University of Calgary in the Mechanical and Manufacturing department of the Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary. She teaches graphical, written and oral communication in their first Engineering Design and Communication course taught to all incoming engineering students.
She co-founded and designs ZQ, an online journal to provide a platform to showcase the nexus of science and design using case studies, news, and articles.
As an instructor, she was one of the recipients of The Allan Blizzard Award, a Canadian national teaching award for collaborative projects that improve student learning in 2004. In 2005, she was one of the recipients of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Curriculum Innovation Award. She is - as PIC II chair - currently a board member of ASEE.

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“Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped” Fiction in a first year design and communication class

Many universities and colleges have incorporated “a common reading program” for incoming first year students. Typically a book is selected by a campus committee and introduced during summer orientation activities. Students are expected to read the book in early fall and participate in discussion groups and other activities during the fall and/or winter semesters. Our first year design and communications course at The x x of x participated in 2013 for the first time because the book – No Impact Man by Colin Beavan - addressed questions about sustainable living and added value to a planned design project. Students were asked to read one chapter of the book, to critically discuss this chapter in their ‘chapter’ groups, and assign a spokesperson to summarize their chapter with added constructive criticism for the class. This was done with the entire first year class of 725 students over 4 lecture sections. This year the university selection of the common reading program book did not fit in with our course plan, so a novel specific to engineering and our course theme was chosen. Students read the book The Martian by Andy Weir over the course of 13 weeks with a variety of deliverables, modules and guest speakers. The reasons for introducing literature into the first year engineering class were as follows: • “Literary works are refined and complex versions of our natural way of thinking. Reading sharpens your thinking and makes it more complex. • Literature helps stimulate creativity. Specialists in a field who only read and discuss the work of others in that field can settle into uncreative groupthink. Literature, with its complexities and narrative structures and alternative meanings, can break groupthink, creating new insights and possibilities. • Literature allows you to inhabit the life and world of different people and develops our empathy.”1 The skills listed above are important in the development of life-long learning, teamwork and engineering design. This paper will describe the activities related to the book project and discuss the design projects related to our Mars theme for 2014. Examples of student deliverables and feedback are provided.

1. Troy Camplin, “Scientists and Engineers Need Literature Reading fiction opens the door to innovation”,, accessed Oct. 17, 2014.

Eggermont, M. (2016, June), "Duct Tape is Magic and Should be Worshipped" - Fiction in a First-Year Design and Communication Class Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26231

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