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Engineering Technology Students Gain Insight Into Real World Engineering Problem Solving By Providing Solutions To Industry Provided Senior Design Projects In Industrial Control Systems

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Real-World Applications

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.508.1 - 8.508.8



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Paper Authors

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Jerome Tapper

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Walter Buchanan

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

Session 1649

Engineering Technology Students Gain Insight into Real-World Engineering Problem Solving by Providing Solutions to Industry Provided Senior Design Projects in Industrial Control Systems

Jerome Tapper, Walter W. Buchanan Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts

Abstract  At Northeastern University, students are learning how to solve real life engineering problems as they provide hands-on solutions to industrial control systems problems in a real time engineering environment. Students are required to team-develop solutions to real life problems as provided to them by industry professionals in a simulated engineering scenario. Through the application of the team design concept, students work together to provide “complete” solutions to presented problems. This paper chronicles an assigned project from initial definition to a student team’s final report including hardware and software solution. Students are treated as engineers throughout and are expected to compile necessary information on their own to solve presented problems. This project brings together many of the courses and cooperative work experiences that students have had during their college tenure.


At Northeastern University’s School of Engineering Technology, electrical engineering technology students (Juniors and Seniors) are now required to take the newly developed “Industrial Control Systems I” course. The focus of this course is to provide students with a close approximation to what they will encounter in real-life engineering environments including dependencies on others and the responsibilities that are required in such positions. This industrial control systems lecture-laboratory course attempts to emulate these real-life environmental functions as close as possible.

In an effort to realize this scenario, industry partners were consulted and ideas were brainstormed between this author and the industrial advisors. Once these ideas were solidified, a formal specification was developed and used as a “final project” model for students taking this class. Upon completion, industry advisors reviewed the resulting student reports and comments were accepted. The utilization of industry advisors is vital to the success of this course as the original premise was to develop a course that would emulate industry as closely as possible. The evolution of this course has already been described elsewhere 1,2,3,4.

Setting The Stage - Preparation

To preserve and replicate a true engineering environment, students were divided into “engineering design teams” of no more than two students each. The entire class is then treated throughout the term as independent “engineering design groups” who have been hired to work for “this author” who will act as their engineering department manager. The important thing to keep in mind is that these groups must be treated, not as students, but as engineers. Students have acquired a lot of education to this point and will be required to put that expertise to work here.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Tapper, J., & Buchanan, W. (2003, June), Engineering Technology Students Gain Insight Into Real World Engineering Problem Solving By Providing Solutions To Industry Provided Senior Design Projects In Industrial Control Systems Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12499

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