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Integrating Soft Skills In A Bme Curriculum

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Entrepreneurism in BME

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.770.1 - 9.770.8



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Paper Authors

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Wendy Newstetter

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Paul Benkeser

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Integrating Soft Skills in a BME Curriculum Paul Benkeser and Wendy Newstetter Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University


ABET’s Criterion 3 requires engineering programs to demonstrate that its graduates possess a number of “soft” skills related to the practice of engineering. These include skills related to teamwork, communications, professionalism, ethics, life-long learning, impact of engineering solutions, and knowledge of contemporary issues. Too often programs seek to satisfy this criterion through what might be called an “inoculation” approach, i.e. giving students a dose of ethics, communications, etc. in the form of a course. Teaching these skills in isolation of the professional practice of engineering has been shown to be a less-than-ideal approach. In contrast, the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University has chosen to develop an approach in which these skills are developed in the students through the use of problem-based learning (PBL) experiences infused throughout the curriculum. Separate problem-based learning courses are positioned in the first and second years. PBL experiences are incorporated into instructional laboratories associated with third-year systems physiology and biomedical sensors courses. The curriculum culminates with a two-semester senior design course sequence, which is a natural extension of the PBL experience. In addition to illustrating how we have incorporated PBL experiences in our curriculum, this paper will include examples of problems, tools, and assessment techniques designed to promote the learning of these soft skills.


In order to achieve ABET accreditation, engineering programs must demonstrate achievement of a minimum set of program outcomes, as described in ABET’s Criterion 3. These outcomes are statements that describe skills that “students are expected to know or be able to do by the time of graduation from the program.”1 A closer examination of these skills suggests that they can be divided into two sets as illustrated in Table 1. The first set, one which engineering educators are typically adept in both teaching and quantitatively measuring achievement, we will refer to as “hard” skills. The second set, which is more difficult to teach and assess, we will call “soft” skills. The integration and assessment of these soft skills in the biomedical engineering curriculum will be discussed herein.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright ©2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Newstetter, W., & Benkeser, P. (2004, June), Integrating Soft Skills In A Bme Curriculum Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13281

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