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Evolution Of An Interdisciplinary Sophomore Design Course At The University Of Hartford

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Design in the Classroom

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.585.1 - 13.585.14



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Paper Authors


David Pines University of Hartford

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David Pines is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Civil, Environmental, and Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of Hartford. He completed his Ph.D. studies in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2000. He is actively involved with student community projects sponsored by environmental engineering firms, municipalities, and water utilities, and international projects as faculty advisor of the students EWB chapter.

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Hisham Alnajjar University of Hartford

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Dr. Hisham Alnajjar is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Hartford, Connecticut (USA), where he is also the Associate Dean of the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture (CETA). Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University, M.S. from Ohio University. His research interests include sensor array processing, digital signal processing,and power systems.

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

Evolution of an Interdisciplinary Sophomore Design Course at the University of Hartford


The University of Hartford engineering curriculum went through a major curriculum change in 2001 that included adding an interdisciplinary sophomore and junior design course to the existing freshman and senior design capstone courses. The new courses were added as part of a NSF grant entitled “Integrating Engineering Design with the Humanities, Social Sciences, Sciences and Mathematics.” The interdisciplinary sophomore design course has undergone several iterations since its inception. Initially, the sophomore course paralleled our senior capstone design course with each project team of 3 to 6 students working on industrial sponsored project with a practicing engineer as the technical mentor. This approach has worked extremely well for our senor design course because of the effort put forth by the faculty to solicit projects and our dedicated engineering mentors who volunteer their time. However, it became overly time consuming for faculty to duplicate this effort for sophomore student teams where it was more difficult to find technically appropriate design projects for students who have taken only one or two engineering courses. Also, the time constraints of a 3-credit course made it difficult to include a hands-on component to a semester long industrially sponsored project where the course curriculum already included lectures on problem solving skills and design concepts.

Faculty assessment of the course has led to several changes to how the design project was integrated into the class. The progression of design projects has included an industrially sponsored project for the entire section of 20 students where students were divided into smaller groups to work on different project tasks or the smaller groups developed alternative designs for solving the same problem; reverse engineering of common consumer products; and instructor developed “paper” design projects. We have now adopted an approach where students work on a project related to the instructor’s design interests, which also supports the core applied research areas of the college. The projects have a hands-on component and uses “just in time learning” teaching method to provide the students the technical background needed for their designs. Another change was to provide students with a description of each of the projects so that they can select the project that best meets their engineering interest. To date, all students have been given either their first or second choice.


The University of Hartford has a relatively small engineering program that offers ABET accredited degrees in civil engineering (students can select an environmental concentration), mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering, and biomedical engineering. The college also has a very strong program in acoustical engineering where students can earn both an engineering degree and a music degree from the University of Hartford’s Hartt School. This is a unique program which attracts students from around the country while most of the other engineering students come from the Mid Atlantic and New England region.

Pines, D., & Alnajjar, H. (2008, June), Evolution Of An Interdisciplinary Sophomore Design Course At The University Of Hartford Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4002

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