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Experience With A Multidisciplinary Project For Social Services

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Promoting Multidisciplinary Efforts

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Harold R Underwood Messiah College

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Dr. Underwood received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in 1989, and has been a faculty member of the engineering Department at Messiah College since 1992. Besides teaching Circuits, Electromagnetics, and Communications Systems, he supervises engineering students in the Communications Technology Group on credited work in the Integrated Projects Curriculum (IPC) of the Engineering Department, and those who participate voluntarily via the Collaboratory for Strategic Parnternships and Applied Research. His on-going projects include improving flight tracking and messaging systems for small planes in remote locations, and developing assistive communication technology for those with cognitive and behavioral challenges, such as high-functioning autism, or PTSD.

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Orienting projects toward social services introduces and motivates students to real-world problem solving in an engineering curriculum. While service learning has gained traction in recent years, only a few papers in the literature have addressed the development of assistive technologies as a focus for engineering project applications. Over the past seven years, an organization at our institution has fostered interdisciplinary efforts of undergraduate students and faculty to develop an assistive communication technology known as Wireless-Enabled Remote Co-presence (WERCware). WERCware is designed for those who depend on job- or life-coaching, to ameliorate cognitive and behavioral challenges that affect performance at home or in the workplace. It facilitates remote communication between coach and consumer, for training and/or other support as needed, to increase independence of the consumer. WERCware development, as a collaborative effort between an academic institution and a small company, has gone through several fits and starts including sporadic seed grant funding, angel investor interest, multiple field trials, consultant contributions, and attempted commercialization. These phases expose students to technical challenges of electrical and computer engineering outside the formal classroom, but also require an interdisciplinary stretch to understand the social need and recognize realistic hurdles inherent to getting a product from development to market. Previous papers have addressed the competitive student team member selection process and assessment of the credit-bearing project work in our engineering curriculum. This paper focuses on WERCware as an extended duration example of multidisciplinary undergraduate project work, highlighting lessons learned by both students and faculty from the experience.

Underwood, H. R. (2016, June), Experience With A Multidisciplinary Project For Social Services Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26809

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