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Engineering Problem Solving In Industrial Engineering Curriculum Reform

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Current Topics in IE Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.556.1 - 10.556.13



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Paper Authors

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Veronica Dark

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Frank Peters

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Sarah Ryan

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John Jackman

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Sigurdur Olafsson

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

Session 1357

Engineering Problem Solving in Industrial Engineering Curriculum Reform Sigurdur Olafsson, Veronica Dark, John Jackman, Frank Peters, and Sarah Ryan

Iowa State University


Problem solving is a major focus of the engineering profession, and upon graduation new engineers are faced with increasingly complex problems. Yet, existing engineering education practices often fall short in preparing students to tackle complex engineering problems that may be ambiguous, open-ended and ill-structured. In this paper, we describe a newly developed learning environment called the Engineering Learning Portal (ELP), which focuses on improving engineering problem solving throughout the industrial engineering curriculum. In the ELP, students are engaged in a structured process for solving unstructured problems while encouraging metacognitive activities, such as planning, monitoring, and evaluating. This helps students acquire the higher order cognition and integration of knowledge domains needed for effective engineering problem solving. In particular, a key element of the ELP is that it requires students to explain and evaluate their work while they are solving complex engineering problems. The underlying premise is that such metacognitive tasks are valuable to students because they eventually improve their engineering problem solving ability. We describe the ELP environment itself, our experience with implementing the environment in three industrial engineering classes, and how it has impacted engineering problem solving as part of the curriculum.

1. Introduction

Engineers are routinely faced with complex, ill-structured problems that differ dramatically from textbook problems routinely assigned in classroom environments. Such problems present many cognitive challenges, and a key element of the problem solving process is making decisions. Many decisions regarding the nature of the problem, the solution approach, and evaluation are made over the life of a problem scenario. These decisions are based on knowledge, perceptions, cognition, and negotiation. The resultant set of decisions should lead to a good solution if the underlying cognitive processes provide effective support for the decision making process.

Some problems encountered in engineering applications are easily recognized and have ready- made solutions that can be implemented by those with experience and the declarative and procedural knowledge of the scenario. The declarative knowledge describes the fundamental principles and facts relevant to the context. The procedural knowledge includes the methods and tools that exploit the declarative knowledge. Decisions for these types of problem are relatively simple to make as the expected outcome is well known. Once a student acquires experience with

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Dark, V., & Peters, F., & Ryan, S., & Jackman, J., & Olafsson, S. (2005, June), Engineering Problem Solving In Industrial Engineering Curriculum Reform Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15490

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