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Engineering Design As A Learning Process

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.424.1 - 6.424.9

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Paper Authors

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Jerald Vogel

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Rebecca Sidler Kellogg

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

Session 2625

Engineering Design as a Learning Process

Rebecca Sidler Kellogg, Jerald Vogel Iowa State University


Design of products, processes, and systems is the task that distinguishes the engineering profession. Either directly or indirectly most engineers are involved in the design process. Despite its central role in the engineering profession and its recognized importance1,2, most engineering students complete their undergraduate degrees with only a cursory glimpse at real engineering design. Their experience is often disconnected and incomplete as the curriculum tends to focus on skills requiring convergent thought processes.

There are several arguments made in defense of the current engineering curriculum, where engineering science and analysis predominate. Possibly the most common is that these subjects are easier to present, amenable to large class sizes, and accommodate the teaching strategies that are popular and economical in university settings. Engineering design education requires small class sizes, one-on-one faculty-student interaction, active learning strategies, and teamwork; lectures and exams do not suffice. Proper engineering design education requires faculty that understand design and recognize its significance to engineering. Further, faculty must have the time and dedication required to integrate design throughout the entire curriculum. Design cannot be made to fit neatly in a one-semester course at the end of an undergraduate education.

There are also those that believe that design processes are particular to various industries and therefore it would be overstepping boundaries to presume to teach such processes at the academic level. While this may be true that at lower levels of abstraction where specific knowledge and details are important, at higher levels of abstraction it can be shown that the basic processes are quite similar across disciplines and domains.

Others claim that engineering design processes are ad hoc and rely on creativity and experience and thus should be addressed later during the student’s professional career where experts in individual fields or industries can serve as mentors. However, engineering design can be shown to be a systematic, cognitive process rather than an ad hoc endeavor. Although creativity and experience do play roles in the process, these do not preclude the possibility that engineering design can be effectively taught. There are many recognized means of promoting creative abilities3-6 that are available for classroom instruction. Contrary to what some educators may believe, students arrive with a base of experience from which their design abilities may successfully grow. A student has already spent a lifetime interacting with a world surrounded by design artifacts. If asked, most students can explain, at least on a conceptual level, how many complicated components or systems work or behave.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Vogel, J., & Sidler Kellogg, R. (2001, June), Engineering Design As A Learning Process Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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: © 2001 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