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Engineering Habits of Mind - an Undergraduate Course that Asks: 'What Is It That Makes Someone an Engineer?' and 'What Distinguishes Engineers from Other Professionals?'

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Engineering as a Professional Calling

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.499.1 - 24.499.24



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Paper Authors


Joseph M LeDoux Georgia Institute of Technology

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Joe Le Doux is the Executive Director for Learning and Student Experience in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. He has also previously served as the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies for the Department. Dr. Le Doux's research interests in engineering education focus on problem-solving, diagrammatic reasoning, and on the socio-cognitive aspects of the flipped and blended learning environments.

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Jacquelyn E. Borinski Georgia Institute of Technology

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Jacquelyn E. Borinski will receive a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Georgia Tech in 2014. She is the External Vice President for the Georgia Tech Chamber Choir and volunteer with the Georgia Aquarium. Her research interests include pediatric device design and human-robot interaction. She is an Undergraduate collaborator with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta designing interactive teaching modules for math and science using the patient's condition as motivation. She was awarded a Women in Engineering Scholarship from Axion BioSystems.

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Kimberly Danielle Haight Georgia Institute of Technology

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Elaine Catherine McCormick Georgia Institute of Technology

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Alisha A.W. Waller Georgia Institute of Technology

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Engineering habits of the mind - an undergraduate course that asks: “What is it that makes someone an engineer?” and “What distinguishes engineers from other professionals?”This paper describes a course that was designed for students who wonder if engineers thinkabout the world differently than other people, and if so, what are their unique ways of thinking?The purpose of this joint-inquiry course was to provide an opportunity for the students and theprofessor to 1) explore these questions, 2) identify and learn some common “habits of the mind”of engineers, 3) enhance their sensitivity to when these habits of the mind can be used aseffective tools to think critically about the world, and 4) practice applying these concepts to theanalysis of systems that are not normally encountered or discussed in the context of theengineering classroom. Therefore, this course directly supports ABET EAC criterion 3 studentoutcomes (h) the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions ina global, economic, environmental, and societal context, and (i) a recognition of the need for, andan ability to engage in life-long learning.Offered in a study abroad semester, this course drew a wide range of students from multipledisciplines including engineering, the life sciences, social sciences, and business. These diverseperspectives led to spirited discussions which challenged students to move outside theirrespective comfort zones. Everyone worked to integrate various complex viewpoints as theyconsidered engineering ways of thinking. Structured as an inquiry into engineering habits of themind, the professor and students were reading, thinking, and learning together. Throughinnovative assignments such as an “Ideas Notebook,” blogs, and response papers, students werepresented opportunities to explore topics through writing and reflection. These activitiesfacilitated complex discussions and deep learning and culminated in a final term project in whichthe students, working in teams of two, were challenged to use engineering ways of thinking tocreate, analyze, and learn from a mathematical model of a real-world system. The students weregiven almost complete freedom to decide the topic of their term project, with the singleconstraint being that they were required to model a system that is not traditionally considered tobe within the domain of engineering, since an important goal of the course was to encouragestudents to explore the value that engineering ways of thinking bring to all aspects of life.This paper describes several highlights of the course’s design and implementation, including thereadings, discussions, and the final term project. Also included are students’ perceptions of thecourse elements derived from their final reflective essays and anonymous end-of-course surveys.

LeDoux, J. M., & Borinski, J. E., & Haight, K. D., & McCormick, E. C., & Waller, A. A. (2014, June), Engineering Habits of Mind - an Undergraduate Course that Asks: 'What Is It That Makes Someone an Engineer?' and 'What Distinguishes Engineers from Other Professionals?' Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20390

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: © 2014 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