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Integrating Engineering Design Projects And Economic Case Studies In A First Year Course

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.327.1 - 4.327.7

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Paper Authors

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George H. Williams

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James . Kenny

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

Session 3253

Integrating Engineering Design Projects and Economic Case Studies in a First-Year Course

George H. Williams, James M. Kenney Union College


The paper describes the set of engineering design projects and economic case studies used in our first-year course, "The Fundamentals of Engineering and Computer Science." The organization and goals of the course, and the criteria for selection of both short- and long-term design projects, are presented. Projects/cases reviewed include a portable ramp for handicapped access, a system to monitor traffic on a pedestrian bridge, a Newcomen steam engine, a computerized weather station, repair of a sinking warehouse, mechanization of agricultural processes in Third World countries, and cost/benefit analysis of alternative fuel use. Over the course of the year student work generally exhibits significantly increased understanding of the elements of open- ended problem solving and increased creativity in the engineering design process. Most students find the course work to be interesting and relevant but very challenging, and there is some concern about continuity in the team-taught, modular curriculum.


In the last five years, the Engineering and Computer Science Programs at Union College were extensively revised as part of a study financed by the General Electric Fund. One result is a first-year curriculum that includes a new common course, “The Fundamentals of Engineering and Computer Science.” The course is being offered for the third time in the 1998-99 academic year. The catalog description of the course is provided in Appendix A; the course (ABET 2000) objectives and performance measurements are detailed in Appendices B and C.

Union College offers undergraduate degrees in Civil, Computer System, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering. Material from each of these disciplines is incorporated in the first-year course. The course includes basic lecture material with extensive handouts, reading assignments (from texts listed in Appendix D), economic case studies, and laboratory exercises that prepare students for the culminating design project.

Course Organization and Administration

The course is a one-year, three-term sequence taken by all majors in engineering (civil, computer systems, electrical, mechanical, and undecided), computer science, and industrial economics. The course schedule is the standard four hours of classroom meetings and one three-hour laboratory each week. These time periods are used for lecture, studio, and laboratory time as appropriate for the course modules. At the beginning of the year the modules are two to four weeks long and include short-term design projects and case studies. Later in the year the course module is eight weeks long and includes a long-term design project.

Williams, G. H., & Kenny, J. (1999, June), Integrating Engineering Design Projects And Economic Case Studies In A First Year Course Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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