Asee peer logo

Learning from Engineering Disasters: A Multidisciplinary Online Course

Download Paper |


2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Course Efforts

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Gary P. Halada Stony Brook University

visit author page

Dr. Halada, Associate Professor in Materials Science and Engineering at Stony Brook University, directs an interdisciplinary undergraduate degree program in Engineering Science. He designs educational materials focused on nanotechnology, advanced manufacturing, and how engineers learn from engineering disasters and how failure and risk analysis can be used to teach about ethics and societal implications of emerging technologies. Halada also coordinates the Long Island Alternative Energy Consortium, a collaborative effort among seven campuses to develop multi-disciplinary, multi-institution undergraduate and experiential education programs in renewable and alternative energies. In recognition of his academic activities, he received the 2012 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Learning from Engineering Disasters: A Multidisciplinary On-Line Course

Learning from engineering failures is a critical need, not only for engineers, but for an informed citizenry which must contend with navigating an increasingly complex technological landscape. For those learning to become engineers or technology managers, especially in fields critical to solving major challenges in growing energy needs, aging infrastructure, the impacts of climate change, and managing emerging technologies for human health, manufacturing and maintaining environmental integrity, the study of engineering disasters and the nature of risk in complex systems (and their broader societal and ethical context) will be an educational necessity. In addition, a key need exists to educate students who will be the creators and users of technologies which may not exist yet – a challenge which vexes all engineering programs today. The solution is to create educational opportunities which train students (including life-long learners) not just in technical matters, but in how to think about technology and engineering with a systems approach incorporating ethics and societal impact. Starting in 2009, a course entitled “Learning from Engineering Disaster” was developed. Taught to over 750 students from at least 18 different majors, the course has been very popular and has proven to enhance student engagement in engineering-related topics for students from diverse academic backgrounds. To broaden the opportunities for students, an online version of the course has been developed which transforms the current course through: enhanced use of electronic portfolios and online collaboration tools for group work; design of peer evaluation activities which leverage the online nature of the course to provide additional collaborative content and encourage the development of communication skills; a modular approach to provide key readings and video content while linking the analysis of real-world examples to key engineering and management principles; design of a multimodal assessment methodology which would provide valuable feedback to students and necessary knowledge for course management and improvement; and integration of course design and accreditation criteria. The proposed content and format of the course is ideal for direct assessment of student outcomes for all accredited programs in engineering, in particular for the ability of engineering students to function on multidisciplinary teams and have an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility, the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context, and a knowledge of contemporary issues. We will discuss the development of the course, exploring the use of a narrative format for motivating and engaging students, and present data gathered on the value of the materials developed for enhancing multidisciplinary undergraduate engineering (and non-engineering) education.

Halada, G. P. (2017, June), Learning from Engineering Disasters: A Multidisciplinary Online Course Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28612

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: © 2017 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