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Implementing An Interdisciplinary Engineering Program – Recruiting Students, Building Courses, Developing A Community

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.678.1 - 15.678.15



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Paper Authors

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Reid Bailey University of Virginia

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Heather Rowan-Kenyon University of Virginia

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Amy Swan University of Virginia

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Marie Shoffner University of Virginia

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Alexandra Coso University of Virginia

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

Implementing an Interdisciplinary Engineering Program – Recruiting Students, Building Courses, Developing a Community Abstract

Traditional undergraduate engineering disciplines, due to their focus on single disciplines, cannot meet the growing need for engineers skilled in multiscale design: they educate engineers to handle systems issues or component issues, but not both. Furthermore, many interdisciplinary programs in engineering are more focused on developing knowledge and skills in multiple component-level domains (e.g., mechatronics focuses on developing component level knowledge in electrical, mechanical, and computer domains) than in component-level and systems-level areas.

These observations serve as the basis for the Technology Leaders Program (TLP), a transportable interdisciplinary program being developed at the University of the Blue Ridge and Central Community College. The TLP is designed to develop in students 1) disciplinary grounding in a component-level domain (electrical and computer engineering) and a systems-level area (systems engineering), 2) integration skills whereby students can design integrated systems of electrical and computer components, and 3) critical awareness of the need for this combination of knowledge and the opportunities and limitations for its application. Building on the Learning Factory model at Penn State, the TLP integrates three elements: a new interdisciplinary, design- focused undergraduate curriculum; the hands-on Multiscale Agile Systems Technology Lab (MAST Lab); and summer internships. Development and implementation of the TLP began in 2008 with the first class of students entering the program as sophomores in 2009 and graduating in 2012.

The purpose of this paper is to report on four dimensions of developing the TLP at the University of the Blue Ridge:

1) a formative evaluation of the first year of TLP development; results from this evaluation indicate many successful components of the TLP, such as the first-year course and the establishment of the Learning Community, and several areas needing improvement such as the communication between the lead personnel at the two institutions and more advanced planning and announcement of Learning Community activities ; 2) the recruitment of the first class of TLP students and key factors attracting students to the program; recruitment was challenged by major declaration not occurring until the summer after the first year, so many students only learned about the TLP from a video sent to them over email; in spite of this, fifteen students, representing a diverse mix of genders, ethnicities, and academic performance are currently in the program 3) the sophomore-level disciplinary grounding courses in electrical engineering and systems engineering and the impact of the TLP on these courses; TLP students take four existing sophomore courses, with the twist being that systems majors take two fundamental electrical and computer engineering courses in addition to their two sophomore systems courses, and vice versa. The instructors from all four of these sophomore courses worked together to link course materials in meaningful ways for both the TLP students and the other students in their courses.

Bailey, R., & Rowan-Kenyon, H., & Swan, A., & Shoffner, M., & Coso, A. (2010, June), Implementing An Interdisciplinary Engineering Program – Recruiting Students, Building Courses, Developing A Community Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16449

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