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Integrating Professional Topics And Engineering Constraints Across The Curriculum

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Professional Issues in Civil Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.764.1 - 14.764.17



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Paper Authors


Ronald Welch University of Texas, Tyler

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Ron Welch is Professor and Head, Department of Civil Engineering at The University of Texas at Tyler. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Virginia. Until 2 Jan 2007, Ron was an Academy Professor at the United States Military Academy (USMA). Ron received a BS degree in Engineering Mechanics from the USMA in 1982 and MS and Ph.D. degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1990 and 1999, respectively.

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

Integrating Professional Topics and Engineering Constraints Across the Curriculum Abstract

Most of us do not learn a skill the first time we try something. Same is true for engineering knowledge and attitudes. Therefore, developing engineering knowledge, skills, and attitudes cannot be relegated to single coverage within the curriculum. Topics must be introduced and wrestled with early in the curriculum, sustained through additional application during intermediate years, and engrained through integrated application during senior design. The concepts of globalization, public policy, and leadership and engineering constraints such as sustainability and ethics are introduced within the freshman engineering experience, cultivated during the sophomore and junior years, and analyzed and applied through senior year and senior design. It is through this integration across the curriculum that students develop a fuller understanding of these professional and design topics.


Based on experience teaching the senior design course and as an ABET program evaluator (PEV), students applying engineering constraints for the first time in the curriculum during the senior design will not attain the level of performance and integration desired in ABET Outcome 3.c – “ability to design a system, component or process to meet needs within realistic constraints such as…”. The same is true for professional topics such as demonstrating professional and ethical responsibility (3.f), engagement in life-long learning (3.i), function on a multi-disciplinary team (3.d), communicate effectively (3.g), and apply knowledge of contemporary issues (3.j). These topics are sometimes relegated to the senior seminar during the last semester before graduation if formally covered at all. If they are difficult to master and assess, then why are they continually addressed and sometimes demonstrated only once in the curriculum? PEV experience highlights that programs tend to not focus on what they do not understand.

ABET experience also highlights that many programs either have weak multi-discipline design experiences and/or do not consider more than economics when it comes to engineering constraints. During the early accreditation visits under EC2000, programs were expected to consider most if not all of the engineering constraints. Students wrestling with the constraints for the first time barely scratch the surface of understanding these constraints within their designs. Recently ABET1 changed the wording of the outcome to “engineering constraints such as regulatory, economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, constructability, and sustainability.” Either it was recognized that not every design project would consider most of the engineering constraints or it might be impossible to get students to fully consider most of the engineering constraints. The new wording does require programs to consider more than one but not all engineering constraints within student design projects. Still it appears that many programs primarily focus on economics even at the senior level

Welch, R. (2009, June), Integrating Professional Topics And Engineering Constraints Across The Curriculum Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4956

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