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Innovation And Improvement Of A Multidisciplinary Engineering Design Course: Increasing Interdisciplinary Interaction

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Design

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.766.1 - 11.766.15



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Paper Authors

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Steven Northrup Western New England College

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

Innovation and Improvement of a Multidisciplinary Engineering Design Course: Increasing Interdisciplinary Interaction


Innovations to a multidisciplinary team design experience have been made with the objective of increasing the level of interdisciplinary design required for successful project completion. The project required teams of four to five students to design, machine, assemble, test, and integrate the mechanical, electrical, and computer subsystems of a solar car. The project introduced the students to the engineering design process typically associated with new product development – parallel development of the mechanical, electrical, and computer systems.

The course is a fall semester design experience and is required of all engineering senior mechanical, electrical and computer engineering students. In the past two years, several changes have been made to the multidisciplinary project with the objective of improving the amount of interdisciplinary interaction between the students. A few of the enhancements are: design of an electromechanical wind speed sensor, design of a microprocessor controlled vehicle starting subsystem, student written connector and wiring specifications, and design of a trailer system that has to be automatically jettisoned during the race at a predetermined distance. The wind sensor required electrical and mechanical engineering students to work together to design, build, and test the system. The vehicle starting subsystem and the connector and wiring specifications required the electrical and computer engineering students to design and test concurrently. The trailer release system allowed the teams to choose electromechanical designs or purely mechanical designs. The electromechanical design required all three disciplines to design and test concurrently to produce a subsystem that used a microprocessor to control the electromechanical trailer jettison mechanism. The purely mechanical design method allowed the mechanical engineers to design and test the system void of input from the other disciplines.

This multidisciplinary team design effort has been conducted successfully for several years at Western New England College. The students enjoy the effort and learn a lot about real world product multidisciplinary design and development challenges including team dynamics, budget constraints, and project management. This paper describes the details of the design experience, discusses how the enhancement efforts were found to be successful, presents sample team prototype results, and discusses student comments and feedback. As part of ongoing assessment procedures, an alumni survey is being developed to obtain longitudinal data on the effects of the improvements.


Western New England College has a long history of incorporating engineering design into its laboratories and courses. 2006 marks the college’s 44th annual capstone design effort. In addition, interdisciplinary team efforts are initiated in the freshman year and continue for all four years1. This paper describes improvements to one such interdisciplinary lab exercise, performed in the fall of the student’s senior year. The design project brings together students from

Northrup, S. (2006, June), Innovation And Improvement Of A Multidisciplinary Engineering Design Course: Increasing Interdisciplinary Interaction Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--746

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