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Integrating Engineering Design And Applied Probability

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.247.1 - 2.247.10

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Paper Authors

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Richard L. Marcellus

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


Session 3225

Integrating Engineering Design and Applied Probability Richard L. Marcellus Department of Industrial Engineering Northern Illinois University DeKalb, Illinois 60115

ABSTRACT Integration of engineering design into an applied probability course is discussed. The course, which is required for the industrial engineering major at Northern Illinois University, presents basic probability, simple reliability models, Markov chains, the Poisson process and simple queueing systems — standard fare for industrial engineering majors. Engineering design activity has been incorporated into the course through

1. homework and test problems that emphasize parametric analysis, variations of standard models, and comparison of alternative systems; 2. loosely stated open-ended problems intended to allow creative response, with the hope that the students will model the physics of the problem situation, identify economic and ethical constraints, and find a way to base decisions on quantitative analysis.

This paper focuses on the second type of problems, labeled “design problems” in the course syllabus. Examples are given, with descriptions and analyses of the students' responses and their suggestions for improving the content and presentation of future design problems. Special attention is given to an exceptionally alert and well-motivated class that was willing to discuss the nature of design and evaluate the course. The paper also contains examples of homework and test problems intended to encourage creative, independent thinking.

INTRODUCTION Combining theory and design in a single course is a difficult challenge. There seems to be an innate conflict between obtaining a sound theoretical basis and actively practicing design. If too much time is devoted to theory, students may acquire only a vague idea of how the concepts can be related to engineering practice. As a result, they will not initiate applications of the theory. If too much time is devoted to design, students may not acquire the deep and solid understanding needed for effective design.

To resolve this conflict, I believe that the entire course should be taught with a “design attitude.” That is, the entire course should be supportive of design activity. The material should be

Marcellus, R. L. (1997, June), Integrating Engineering Design And Applied Probability Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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