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Leadership Training A Different Look At Design Courses

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.361.1 - 4.361.7

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Robert H. Bond

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

Session 1432

Leadership Training - A Different Look at Design Courses

Robert H. Bond New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology


The capstone design course contained in most engineering curricula is a multifaceted educational tool. This course’s primary aim is to allow students to synthesize solutions to real, open ended engineering problems. However, the course also provides a laboratory for the learning, development, and practice of leadership skills. This paper deals with materials that can be presented, and some results obtained, when leadership-management training is brought into an engineering design course. This use of an engineering design course deals with the need for leadership in all of our technical graduates, rather than focusing on specialized training for those individuals whose goal is only technical management. The course provides a real life look at how to turn a group of individuals into a team, define and gain consensus as to the true project definition, break the project into manageable tasks, develop good team communication, resolve conflicts, compare alternative solutions to problems, conduct realistic design reviews, and present interim and final project results in a concise and accurate manner.∗

I. Introduction

This paper looks at nontechnical aspects of design projects. These tend to be the things that keep project/design groups from working smoothly, and from being successful. Many of the topics discussed are part of classic leadership training courses. The premise for including these topics in a design course is that leadership skills developed by students, in any setting, can be a large step toward guaranteeing success both academically and in the work place. Another strong motivation is that we don’t know who will become Managers and CEO’s, but we do know that almost all engineers will be leaders of a task force, or design group at some time in their career. I don’t mean to slight technical knowledge as a necessary prerequisite for good design. The assumption here is that the students have gained the requisite technical skills necessary to solve complex technical problems.

The model for this paper is a full year Electrical Engineering senior design course. The specific material described in this paper has been part of this course for the past five years. The students select from available projects early in the first term and continue to work in groups of two to four throughout the academic year. It is required that their projects have a well defined customer from within or outside of the academic community and a faculty advisor from within the EE department. The projects generally require a finished piece of hardware (a few projects

∗ Portions reprinted, with permission, from (IEEE Transactions on Education; volume 41, number 4, CD-ROM supplement; November 1998). © 1998 IEEE.

Bond, R. H. (1999, June), Leadership Training A Different Look At Design Courses Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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