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Multidisciplinary Engineering: Flexibility And Abet Accreditation

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Design Constituents

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.893.1 - 14.893.19



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Paper Authors


Phillip Wankat Purdue University

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Phil Wankat is the Clifton L. Lovell Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering and the Director of Undergraduate Degree Programs in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He is interested in improving teaching methods, teaching new engineering professors how-to-teach, and increasing the accessibility of engineering education.

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Kamyar Haghighi Purdue University

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Professor Kaymar Haghighi is the founding Head of the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University and is a professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. He is interested in developing engineering education as a discipline and in building capacity for rigorous research in engineering education.

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

Multidisciplinary Engineering– Flexibility and ABET Accreditation


An extremely flexible Multidisciplinary Engineering (MDE) program was developed that extensively uses existing courses taught by other engineering programs. The program has nine structured concentrations and also allows student-developed concentrations. In the latter concentration 50 % of the course credits required for graduation are electives or selectives. Students receive extensive pro-active advising to ensure their plans meet both graduation requirements and their educational objectives. The most popular concentration is currently acoustical engineering. An intensive and extensive assessment program that individually tracks the progress of each of the sixty students on the twelve program outcomes was developed. The MDE program was ultimately successful in obtaining ABET accreditation. The assessment procedures developed here provide a model for proving that all students including transfer students have met program outcomes. Based on analysis with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, male students in MDE are more likely to be intuitive, feeling and perceptive than male students in other engineering majors. These differences are statistically significant. Thus, development of flexible curricula that are attractive to and retain students that are less likely to stay in other engineering programs may be low-hanging fruit in reforming engineering education. Other universities could use the MDE program as a model of a very low cost, flexible program that helps retain engineering students and can meet ABET accreditation requirements.

Introduction: The Precursor to Multidisciplinary Engineering

The Multidisciplinary Engineering (MDE) program grew out of the Interdisciplinary Engineering Studies (IDES) program, which was founded in 1969 and has over 1600 alumni. IDES was established as a separate division in Engineering at a time when students were leaving engineering because of a general anti-technology and anti-government attitude in the USA. The goals of the IDES division were to help recruit and retain students who had the ability to do engineering but also had other compelling interests. To retain maximum flexibility the decision was made to not seek ABET accreditation and to require a minimum of 30 credits of engineering. Students were only allowed to follow plans of study that could not be done in one of the standard disciplines offered at the university.

By the early 21st century it was evident that IDES was serving two groups of students. One group of students wanted an engineering education but did not plan to pursue an engineering career. For example, these students were in preprofessional programs such as premedical engineering or prelaw engineering. The non-ABET accredited program was a good fit for these students. The other group of students was interested in pursuing an engineering career in programs such as acoustical engineering, biomedical engineering, and engineering management. Graduates who followed careers that did not require them to become registered professional engineers had few complaints about their educational preparation. On the other hand, graduates who wanted to become professional engineers often had considerable difficulty in being allowed to take the professional engineering examination because they had not graduated from an ABET accredited program. (Until 2006 IDES had a waiver from the Indiana State Board that allowed

Wankat, P., & Haghighi, K. (2009, June), Multidisciplinary Engineering: Flexibility And Abet Accreditation Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4588

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