Asee peer logo

"Hiring Other Classes": Working across Departmental Boundaries in Interdisciplinary Projects for Senior Engineers

Download Paper |


2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Design Projects

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Cynthia H. Carlson PE, PhD Merrimack College Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Carlson worked as a water resources engineer for 10 years prior to earning her doctorate, contributing to improved water management in communities within the United States, Middle East, and Singapore. She has been a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) since 2002. Dr. Carlson’s research interests are broadly characterized as ‘how civil engineering impacts public health’, and include storm water management, modeling environment/engineering/social interfaces, combined sewer overflows, and improved communication and education of engineering concepts.

visit author page


Anne Pfitzner Gatling Merrimack College

visit author page

I taught for 10 years as an elementary teacher in Alaska. I won the Presidential Award for Science Teaching and was an Einstein Fellow in Senator Lieberman's office where I worked on the teacher quality portion of the Higher Education Reauthorization. I have been the co-director of the STEM Education program here at Merrimack College for Early Childhood and Elementary Majors for 5 years.

visit author page

author page

John G. Adams Merrimack College

author page

Jocelyn Fraga Muller Merrimack College

Download Paper |


Engineering students in upper level courses are often isolated from students in other majors. Project Based Learning (PBL) is a great tool for upper level students, where they can practice the various skills they will need to successfully address workforce projects after academia. However, PBL does not readily allow students to interact with the wide variety of people and fields that engineers regularly do during a post-academic ‘real world’ project, including environmental scientists, policy makers, technicians, interns, and managers.

To address these issues, we adapted Project Based Learning to include collaboration between different courses. “Environmental Design,” a Civil Engineering course with 25 seniors enrolled, “hired” other courses of students to conduct specific tasks of interest to our projects. An Ecology course was hired to conduct macroinvertebrate sampling. An Electrical Engineering course was hired to design and develop a water quality monitoring device. A STEM Education course was hired to complete some water quality measurements. Finally, the students of Environmental Design were hired by an Environmental Studies course to develop a water quality monitoring plan, and conduct additional water quality measurements.

Students in the involved courses encountered situations that they would not have otherwise encountered. Instructors enjoyed working together, but also faced many difficulties related to managing not just their own course. Deadlines not met in one course had rippling effects, requiring other courses to be flexible with their own deliverable contents and/or due dates. Although the endeavor was challenging for instructor and student alike, with some small adjustments we recommend the model and will try it again.

Carlson, C. H., & Gatling, A. P., & Adams, J. G., & Fraga Muller, J. (2017, June), "Hiring Other Classes": Working across Departmental Boundaries in Interdisciplinary Projects for Senior Engineers Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27427

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015