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Making a College-Level Multidisciplinary Design Program Effective and Understanding the Outcomes

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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

Multidisciplinary Technical Session

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1031.1 - 22.1031.12



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Paper Authors


Shanna R. Daly University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Shanna Daly is an Assistant Research Scientist in the College of Engineering and the Design Science Program at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on teaching and learning design and innovation strategies in interdisciplinary contexts.

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Harvey Bell University of Michigan

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Harvey Bell, IV was appointed Professor of Engineering Practice and Co-Director of the Multidisciplinary Design Program on September 1, 2010 after a 39 year career in the automotive industry with General Motors. During his career with General Motors some of his significant positions were: Chief Engineering, 2.5 Liter Engine, Vehicle Chief Engineer, Fourth Generation Camaro and Firebird, Executive Director, Vehicle Performance and Executive Director, Advanced Vehicle Development Center for North America. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and undertook graduated studies at the University of Pennsylvania and University of Michigan, Dearborn.

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Brian E. Gilchrist University of Michigan

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Co-Director, Multidisciplinary Design Programs, College of Engineering
Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Dept
Professor, Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences Dept
University of Michigan

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Gail Susan Hohner University of Michigan, College of Engineering


James Paul Holloway University of Michigan

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James Paul Holloway is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Professor of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education at the University of Michigan College of Engineering.

James Paul Holloway has been a member of the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences at the University of Michigan since January 1990. His research focuses on numerical and mathematical analysis of problems in plasma kinetic theory, radiation transport and shielding, inverse problems, high energy density physics and uncertainty quantification. He has also served as Chair of the NRE Division of ASEE.

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Making a College-Level Multidisciplinary Design Program Work and Understanding the OutcomesAbstractA Midwestern University’s College of Engineering (CoE) has committed to a significantMultidisciplinary Design (MD) Program as part of implenting three co-curricular programs ascomplements to the bachelor degree programs (along with Entrepreneurial and InternationalPrograms). This enables students from across degree programs and even outside of the CoE tocollaborate as appropriate. As an institution with strong emphasis on research, large studentpopulations, and a graduate to undergraduate student ratio of approximately 1:2, this engineeringprogram must address two important challenges: (1) scalability: the CoE currently enrolls nearly5500 undergraduate students, and (2) breadth of programs: the CoE currently offers 15 academicbachelor degrees. The Multidisciplinary Design Program puts students from a range ofdisciplines to work on significant, open-ended, real world multidisciplinary design projects thatinclude design, build and test (DBT) elements. This is currently being done by flexiblyaddressing instructional and practicum needs through a minor and developing ways to trackperformance of the program and students. Our next step is working to infuse lessons learned in tobroader curricula of our bachelor degree programs and connecting with masters-level programsas well so as to reach more students and touch all programs.As multidisciplinary design teaching is initiated we need to seek objective means of evaluatingthe learning experience so that we can more quickly refine the experience. Initial studies of smallnumbers of students using constant comparative methods (Cuba & Lincoln, 1998) show some ofthe strengths and weaknesses of the learning experience. For example, we recently completed astudy of students who were currently engaged in or previously engaged in multidisciplinarydesign team experiences outside of the classroom. This type of experience is central to the MDminor, thus our work targeted a better understanding of the nature of students’ work and theoutcomes of their work with respect to their own development. This work included in-depthinterviews on how students processed through their projects, the ways they interacted with theirteammates from different majors, how they conceptualized the act of designing, and what factorscontributed to their growth as multidisciplinary designers. This work revealed features of theexperience that the program will continue to facilitate and develop further, for example, theprocess of testing designs in context, and iterating and rebuilding designs based on data fromtrials. Additionally, the study provided direction for program development, including morestructured opportunities for students to reflect and strategize with other students on differentmultidisciplinary teams.We intend to present both a review of the challenges of implementing the MD Program as wellas our efforts to measure and understand its impact on our students and graduates.

Daly, S. R., & Bell, H., & Gilchrist, B. E., & Hohner, G. S., & Holloway, J. P. (2011, June), Making a College-Level Multidisciplinary Design Program Effective and Understanding the Outcomes Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18312

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