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Harnessing Engineering Expertise in Industry: Activating Six Sigma Themes in a College/Industry Course Development Collaboration

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session


Tagged Topic

Corporate Member Council

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.838.1 - 26.838.12



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Paper Authors


Mary K. Pilotte Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Mary Pilotte is Associate Professor of Engineering Practice in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. She leads the First-Year Engineering instructional operations group, is an instructor for First-Year Engineering and Multidisciplinary coursework, and was recently appointed Director of the undergraduate Interdisciplinary Engineering Studies and Multidisciplinary Engineering program. With over 20 years of industrial work experience, and supportive of her academic roles, Mary actively leads academic outreach to industrial firms to develop in-classroom, project-based, active learning through identification of “real life”, in-context problem scenarios. Pilotte’s research interests involve understanding engineering culture, identity, and communication in the context of professional engineering practice. Expanded interests include understanding student benefits associated with in-context active learning, innovative distance learning, and global learning experiences. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Leadership and Supervision from Purdue University, an MBA from the Goizueta School of Business, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University.

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Rick I Zadoks Caterpillar Inc.

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Rick Zadoks is the Engineering Technical Steward for Engine Dynamics at Caterpillar Inc. He is Caterpillar's representative to Purdue University's School of Engineering Education Industrial Advisory Council and currently serves as the Chair. Before joining Caterpillar, Zadoks was a professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of New Mexico (1988-1994) and the University of Texas-El Paso (1994-2000). He received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, where he served as a Graduate Instructor in the Department of Freshman Engineering.

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Monica Farmer Cox Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Monica F. Cox, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University, the Inaugural Director of the College of Engineering's Leadership Minor, and the Director of the International Institute of Engineering Education Assessment (i2e2a). In 2013, she became founder and owner of STEMinent LLC, a company focused on STEM education assessment and professional development for stakeholders in K-12 education, higher education, and Corporate America. Her research is focused upon the use of mixed methodologies to explore significant research questions in undergraduate, graduate, and professional engineering education, to integrate concepts from higher education and learning science into engineering education, and to develop and disseminate reliable and valid assessment tools for use across the engineering education continuum.

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Harnessing Engineering Expertise in Industry: Activating Six Sigma themesin a College/Industry Course Development CollaborationWith over 10,000 Baby Boomers a day retiring from the U. S. workforce, the issue of retainingirreplaceable knowledge capital is first and foremost in the minds and strategic initiatives ofindustrial leaders. In spite of the attention the topic was receiving in industry, it appeared thatlittle mind space or targeted research within the academy was being focused on the loomingcritical issue. In 2011, with urging and support from an Engineering Education IndustrialAdvisory Council (IAC), the first of its kind course was launched entitled “HarnessingEngineering Expertise in Industry”. The course, co-developed and instructed with tenuredfaculty and leadership from industry, explores the topic of engineering expertise from anindustrial perspective. The objective of this course (which continues today) is to make explicitthe concept of expertise in industry, to replicate and/or develop research based approaches foridentifying and capturing this expertise, and to consider how these approaches can benefitindustrial enterprise. Further, rigorous Engineering Education research practices are put to workunderpinning the topical exploration, and enabling the class deliverables which includeindividually developed, industry facing, research proposals, and formal proposal “pitch”presentations to industry representatives. Beneficial outcomes from developing this courseinclude: 1) establishing a foundation of college/industry collaborative graduate level course workthat supports the concerns of industry facing stakeholders and beyond, and 2) offeringengineering education students a unique area of research specialization focused on life-longlearning and engineering practice in Industry.Framed using the so-called “six themes of Six Sigma”: genuine focus on the customer; data andfact driven management; processes are where the action is; proactive management; boundary-less collaboration; and drive for perfection-tolerate failure (Pande & Holpp, 2002, pg. 15), thispaper will recount and unpack the collaborative perspectives and processes by which this coursewas developed and continues to evolve and improve. Perceived best practices and implicationsfor future college/industry course development projects will be discussed.Citation: Pande, P., & Holpp, L. (2002). What is six sigma?. New York (N.Y.): McGraw-Hill.

Pilotte, M. K., & Zadoks, R. I., & Cox, M. F. (2015, June), Harnessing Engineering Expertise in Industry: Activating Six Sigma Themes in a College/Industry Course Development Collaboration Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24175

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