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Long-Distance Collaboration, International Perspective, and Social Responsibility through a Shared Interdisciplinary Engineering Design Course

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Teaching Communication II

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.873.1 - 24.873.11



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Paper Authors


Jodi F. Prosise St. Ambrose University

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Jodi Prosise is an assistant professor at St. Ambrose University in the Department of Engineering and Physical Science. She earned her PhD in Biomedical Engineering at University of Minnesota and her Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State University. She teaches courses in both Industrial and Mechanical Engineering at SAU, focusing in Engineering Graphics, Manufacturing, the Engineering Sciences, and Design. She is the PI of an NSF S-STEM grant and helps to direct the undergraduate research program at SAU. She leads a study-abroad trip for engineering students to Ilheus, Bahia, Brazil every-other-year.

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Hank Yochum Sweet Briar College

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Hank Yochum is the Director of the Margaret Jones Wyllie '45 Engineering Program and Professor of Physics and Engineering at Sweet Briar College. Sweet Briar is one of two women's colleges in the United States with an ABET accredited engineering degree. He earned his BS in Physics from the College of Charleston and PhD in Physics from Wake Forest University. Prior to joining Sweet Briar, he was a Member of Technical Staff at OFS Specialty Photonics in the Optical Amplifier Development Group.

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Long-distance collaboration, international perspective, and social responsibility through a shared interdisciplinary engineering design courseToday’s societal characteristics are compelling engineering graduates to have a broader range ofskills rather than the highly focused technical repertoire demanded of engineers in the past(Nguyen, 1998), as well as an awareness of the effects of technologies on cultures, societies, andeconomies (Rugarcia, Felder, Woods, & Stice, 2000). In order to meet these needs, a uniqueundergraduate engineering course has been developed as a collaborative effort between facultymembers at two small liberal arts institutions separated by more than 800 miles. Each institutionoffers an ABET accredited engineering degree (Engineering Science and Industrial Engineering)and graduates ~7-12 engineers per year. In the course, engineering student teams design andimplement assistive technologies for persons with disabilities and underprivileged individuals forboth local and global clients. The course is required for engineering majors from bothinstitutions and is usually taken in the sophomore or junior year as a pre-capstone experience.Sharing expertise, capabilities, and faculty time are important considerations in developing thecourse because of the very small size of each school’s departments.At the beginning of the semester, at least two students from each institution are assigned to teamsafter consideration of abilities and project interest. The students are lead through the engineeringdesign process and are engaged in issues of ethics, social responsibility, and cultural awarenessthrough readings, activities, discussions, and lectures where students and faculty from bothinstitutions participate by utilizing online video conferencing tools. Students work in groupsthrough various online communication techniques to complete milestones set by faculty,including major reports for each phase of the design process, physical prototype, and a finalproduct with instruction manual. Overcoming the challenges of communicating long-distancewith teammates as well as a unique customer-base leaves students with valuable skills that theywill use throughout their careers. Long-distance collaboration is particularly important today asmany engineers in industry now work at a distance with colleagues. Students interact with theirlocal customers and for students with international clients, have the option to travel to Brazil tomeet these customers. Through this work, students gain a better perspective regarding the effectsof technology on society and their accessibility to persons with diverse socioeconomic standingand physical ability, as well as increase their knowledge of the needs of the growing globalmarket. In this paper, a variety of lessons learned about this type of course and collaboration willdiscussed. We will also include details on student projects and assessment of learning outcomes.

Prosise, J. F., & Yochum, H. (2014, June), Long-Distance Collaboration, International Perspective, and Social Responsibility through a Shared Interdisciplinary Engineering Design Course Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22806

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