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Investigating Pattern in Design Performance of Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Engineering Student Teams

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Research on Design Learning

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1038.1 - 26.1038.17



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Paper Authors


Matthew E McFarland University of Virginia

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UVA class of 2014 graduate with a MS in Systems Engineering.

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Reid Bailey University of Virginia

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Reid Bailey is an Associate Professor in the Department of Systems and Information Engineering at hte University of Arizona. He holds a BSE from Duke University and an MSME and PhD from Georgia Tech, all in mechanical engineering. His professional interests include engineering design, engineering education, and the environment.

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Investigating Pattern in Design Performance of Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Engineering Student TeamsThis paper investigates the behavior of undergraduate engineering students on interdisciplinaryteams engaged in an engineering design project. The specific behavior of interest is in the patternundergraduate engineering student teams take through the stages of engineering design. Thefollowing research question motivates this work: How do undergraduate engineering student teams distribute their time with respect to different stages of engineering design on an interdisciplinary design project?Compared to prior work in this area, two unique aspects of this study are the focus oninterdisciplinary teams and the inclusion of prototyping in the observed design process. Priorstudies predominantly focused on individuals or teams from a single discipline and on projectsthat ended with conceptual designs.Students from Sunapee State University participated in this study in 2012 and 2013. Prompted bya desire to assess an interdisciplinary program at Sunapee State University, the CollaborativeEngineering Program (CEP), the purpose of this study was to develop a strategy to evaluate theinterdisciplinary design skills of undergraduate students. The CEP curriculum focuses ondeveloping a student’s knowledge and skills that address both component level design andsystems integration. This CEP is a cross collaboration between the Electrical and ComputerEngineering and Systems Engineering. The three year curriculum fosters a learning environmentin which electrical, computer, and systems engineering students collaborate to engage ininterdisciplinary engineering design.Forty-two fourth year students majoring in electrical, computer, or systems engineeringparticipated. Of the forty-two students, twenty-one were enrolled in the CollaborativeEngineering Program. This study consisted of an activity where teams of four studentsparticipated in an electrical-computer-systems engineering integration focused project. Eachteam was composed of two systems engineering students and two students of either electrical orcomputer engineering majors. In addition, each team was also composed of a combination ofstudents enrolled or not enrolled in the CEP. Students were presented with a client basedchallenge, given specific solution requirements, and asked to build a prototype within a threehour timeframe that met the client needs. Following the model of Verbal Protocol Analysis,students were encouraged to talk aloud throughout the study for the researcher to observe thereasoning behind thought process and decision making actions. A total of eleven teams werevideoed during the design activity. The videos were transcribed and coded by team structure anddesign stage, with the design stage being coded using a scheme modified from author name, et al[1].Results of this paper show the way undergraduate engineering student teams distribute their timeon an interdisciplinary design project can be reduced to two distinct patterns; one representativeof movement through design stages, the other of team structure use. There were five patterns ofmovement through design stages and four patterns of team structure use that emerged fromanalysis of this study. Analysis also showed factors such as group composition may haveinfluenced the observed patterns. The patterns also show most teams preferred rapid shiftsbetween both design stage and team structure throughout the study, with few groups choosing towork predominantly in one structure or design stage.

McFarland, M. E., & Bailey, R. (2015, June), Investigating Pattern in Design Performance of Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Engineering Student Teams Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24375

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015