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Interdisciplinary Teaching Techniques And Learning In Dynamic Modeling And Control

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Course Innovation I

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.788.1 - 13.788.11



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Paper Authors

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Robert Rabb

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David Chang United States Military Academy

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

Interdisciplinary Teaching Techniques and Learning in Dynamic Modeling and Control


Engineering education experiences unique challenges as well as opportunities. As the future of engineering education emphasizes more interdisciplinary work and more work performed in teams, one logical starting point for this evolution in interdisciplinary work is with the faculty. Engineering educators cannot ignore the real world’s shifting focus to interdisciplinary engineering, and they should adapt as well. Similar to the total engineering process as a team effort, the engineering education process is equally a team effort with excellent communications between faculties from different departments. This paper highlights a classical dynamical modeling and controls course with students and instructors from different departments: electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. The role of course director rotates between the two departments each semester with shared responsibilities throughout the semester between the instructors. This organizational structure is important, allowing the interdisciplinary faculty team to synchronize their efforts, bringing their individual strengths and resources together for the course to promote student learning. The instructors engage in meaningful dialogue concerning their assignments, lesson preparations, laboratory exercises, and their results. The information flow between instructors from different departments encourages faculty learning by pushing the instructors beyond their own discipline. This paper illustrates some of the course details employed between two engineering departments to advance and enrich an interdisciplinary controls engineering course. Advantages to empowering an interdisciplinary faculty are also described. The techniques described allow the students to benefit from the work of an interdisciplinary faculty team and enrich the students’ understanding by bringing in real world projects and examples, elucidated by discipline specific instructors, to academic settings.


Recently the National Academy of Engineering developed a publication “Educating the Engineer of 2020”, which mentioned many ideas of co-teaching, just in time teaching, and multi- disciplinary teaching. Industry and various academic institutions feel that it is vital to integrate engineering because most systems existing presently are developed with integrated engineering teams1. Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA) proposed and was awarded National Science Foundation funds in 1987 to develop an Enhanced Experience for Engineering Education (E4)2. This program integrated students and faculty from all engineering disciplines for the first two years of the student’s engineering education and put them through an intense integration experience. This program was designed to attract many more students to engineering; however, due to its significant attrition rate (an average 60%), this is one of the reasons why Drexel University is planning to stop the program next year. However, our approach is very different. Instead of integrating the students in the freshman and sophomore years, we are integrating them in the senior year. The advantage is that the students are much more developed in their engineering discipline and we are adding to that knowledge base.

Rabb, R., & Chang, D. (2008, June), Interdisciplinary Teaching Techniques And Learning In Dynamic Modeling And Control Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3333

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