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Introducing Interdisciplinary Content through Electives

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

SPECIAL SESSION: Interdisciplinary Course Design Opportunities for Chemical Engineers

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.958.1 - 22.958.18



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Paper Authors


Joseph J. Biernacki Tennessee Technological University

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Joseph J. Biernacki is Professor of Chemical Engineering at Tennessee Technological University (TTU). His research interests include the kinetics, characterization and modeling of inorganic hydration reactions and their hydrate products as well as the pedagogy of critical thinking, problem solving, team training and how engineering students learn. Biernacki received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University and his M.S. and DR.E. (Doctor of Engineering) degrees from Cleveland State University.

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Christopher D. Wilson Tennessee Technological University

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Christopher D. Wilson is Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Tennessee Technological University (TTU). His research interests include the mechanical behavior of materials, especially plasticity and fracture of metals. His teaching interests include machine design, finite element method and mechanical behavior of materials. His educational interests include problem solving, active student learning, and teaming. Wilson received his B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from TTU, his M.S. in Mathematics from University of Alabama-Huntsville, and his Ph.D. in Engineering Science from University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

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Introducing Interdisciplinary Content through ElectivesThe introduction of true interdisciplinary content into the engineering curriculum has beenamong the most debated and difficult to implement requirements of the current ABETaccreditation criteria. While many programs use soft activities such as role playing scenarios incapstone courses and similar interdisciplinary simulations, it is possible to design effectivecoursework with true interdisciplinary interaction. For over ten years the authors, faculty ofChemical (CHE), Electrical (ECE) and Mechanical Engineering (ME), have been teachingvarious courses including a CHE-ME elective entitled, “Interdisciplinary Studies in CeramicMaterials Processing,” and a CHE-ECE-ME elective entitled, “Introduction toMicroelectromechanical Systems (MEMS).” Designed with more than one pedagogical focus,these courses were implemented not only to provide real interdisciplinary team-based activities,but also to be true design experiences with either laboratory and computational experiences orboth. Over the past ten years, this pair of courses have been test beds for examining theeffectiveness of various team selection strategies, the integration of inquiry-based learning, andeven the introduction of a novel inter university collaboration on entrepreneurship. These twoexperiments in interdisciplinary instruction provided many valuable clues about how studentslearn in such environments and about how instructors must adapt to an interdisciplinary team-teaching culture. During trying fiscal times, such experiments may be difficult to start orsustain, however, the student experience is always worth the effort.

Biernacki, J. J., & Wilson, C. D. (2011, June), Introducing Interdisciplinary Content through Electives Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18167

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