Asee peer logo

Engineering Design And Communications: Successes And Failures Of An Evolving First Year Course

Download Paper |


2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Teams and Teamwork in Design I

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.621.1 - 12.621.7



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Janice Miller-Young Mount Royal College

visit author page

JANICE MILLER-YOUNG is a P.Eng. with a background in mechanical engineering and a PhD in biomechanics. She has worked in the oil industry, has consulted for sports equipment companies and academics on biomechanics research, and has been teaching engineering design for three years. She also incorporates writing-across-the curriculum
and inquiry-based learning concepts in more traditional courses such as statics and dynamics.

visit author page


Sean Maw Mount Royal College

visit author page

Sean Maw has a PhD in Neuroscience (University of Alberta) and a BASc/MASc in Systems Design
Engineering from University of Waterloo. He has worked extensively in the fields of sports
engineering and sports science with the Canadian National Teams, especially in speed skating. He has also taught engineering design for several years, as well as mechanics, neuroscience and human motor control.

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

Engineering Design and Communications: Successes and failures of an evolving first-year course


Design is widely considered to be the central and distinguishing activity of engineering1. Although technical knowledge is important, so are teamwork, communication and critical- thinking skills, as well as the ability to continually learn and stay current with ever-changing technology. First-year design courses have been added to the curriculum in an effort to introduce students to what engineers actually do2,3 while they are also learning professional skills and the engineering design process4,5.

Using design projects to teach engineering skills has been a major innovation in engineering pedagogy6. There is strong evidence that team projects and problem-based learning in engineering design courses: • Maximize student achievement6-9; • Stimulate student interest in engineering10; • Motivate learning in upper division engineering science courses10; • Increase student retention in engineering programs10-11.

However there are many “soft skills” required in learning design and no consensus on which are most important for first year students, nor which is the best way way to teach them. Some institutions focus on design methods and team dynamics [eg. Harvey Mudd], others on design and writing [eg. Northwestern], and others combine design with graphics [eg. Penn State]. Mount Royal College offers a University transfer engineering program. Thus, our courses must conform with the local University to which most of our students transfer. In design terms, the constraints imposed by the University are that there are two sequential first-year courses, each with 1 hour of lecture time per week, and 4.5 hours of lab time (a 3-hour long lab and 1.5-hour short lab) each week. Students are assessed through individual and group work with approximately equal weight on visual communication skills, oral and written communication skills, and design.

Outside of these constraints, our instructors are free to design the courses as we feel is best for our students. One of the main goals of the courses is to stimulate a “deep approach” to learning, meaning that students should attempt to understand, rather than memorize facts and procedures, and learn to appreciate how the data from various subjects and their own experiences are interrelated12. Similarly, the major components of the courses must be integrated so that they support and reflect each other in a coherent strategy13. Thus, the combination and sequence of concepts presented in the engineering design courses are important. The courses, entitled Engineering Design and Communications I and II, are in their fifth year and are still under constant development and revision in an attempt to optimize course content, improve organization, enhance the students’ design experience, and enhance their teamwork skills.

Miller-Young, J., & Maw, S. (2007, June), Engineering Design And Communications: Successes And Failures Of An Evolving First Year Course Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--3039

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015