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EXTROVERT: Experience with Cross-Disciplinary Learning

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Technical Session

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.694.1 - 22.694.11



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Paper Authors


Narayanan M. Komerath Georgia Institute of Technology

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Professor, Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering

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Brian German Georgia Institute of Technology

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EXTROVERT: Experience with Cross-Disciplinary LearningThe EXTROVERT project builds resources to enable engineers to solve problems cuttingacross disciplines. The approach is to enable learners to gain confidence with the processof solving problems, starting with their own preferred learning styles as far as possible.Ideas being implemented include a design-centered portal to aerospace engineering,vertical streams of technical content, learning assignments using case studies, a library ofsolved problems accessible from course content, and integrative concept modules. Theproject experiments with assessment strategies to measure learning in time to improve it.This project aims to help people acquire knowledge across several disciplines and henceexcel in developing new concepts. The primary focus is on cross-disciplinary learning asrelevant to designing flight vehicle systems. Some development of analytical,computational and experimental learning tools for discovery and skill-building is part ofthe effort. The theme is to enable development of advanced concepts. Objectives are todevelop pedagogical resources that guide learning across disciplines for new concepts,and to acquire systematic, transferable experience on how engineers perform in suchlearning.The project is a bold attempt to deal with the issues of learning across disciplines in orderto turn advanced concepts into reality. It is founded on the core knowledge of science andengineering, but uses a Conceptual Design gateway to make this knowledge quicklyaccessible and usable. Intense effort to develop a library of worked examples is a keyfeature in opening the knowledge base to different types of learners. An initial paper inthe 2010 conference set out the issues and built the concept for dealing with them. Thefirst year’s progress and usage experience from Spring 2010 courses were summarized.At this writing, a second iteration of the test website has been developed, with password-controlled access used to trace learners’ progress and learning style preferences as theynavigate the multiple levels of resources. The present paper addresses the issues inlearning across disciplines, including the experience of students working on developingadvanced concepts. Concepts being developed include a supersonic airliner fueled byliquid hydrogen, a business case for a micro renewable energy systems architecture, aconcept for terrestrial solar power exchange, one for a photoelectric/ photovoltaic powerconverter for kitchens, and one for retail power beaming to villages. A basic sophomorelevel course on dynamics is used to provide depth to concept innovators.The presence of such a resource exposes some deep flaws in present curricula. Studentsoften attempt to avoid going back and gaining deeper understanding of prior courses,confident that instructors do not have the time to present material beyond the presentcourse. By providing problem-solving resources and guidance, this excuse is removed.After some resistance, students adapt to the resources, and gain in depth of understandingand breadth of knowledge. Instructional techniques that have succeeded in inducing thischange in attitude are discussed in the paper.Despite difficulties in the core material, students do very well in concept innovation whenprovided some guidance. AcknowledgementsThe work reported in this paper was made possible by resources being developed for the“EXTROVERT” cross-disciplinary learning project under NASA Grant NNX09AF67GS01. Mr. Anthony Springer is the Technical Monitor.

Komerath, N. M., & German, B. (2011, June), EXTROVERT: Experience with Cross-Disciplinary Learning Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17975

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