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On Engineering Design Education: Exposing Students to Design Knowledge

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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

Design in Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.948.1 - 24.948.12



Permanent URL

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Paper Authors


Waddah Akili Iowa State University

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Waddah Akili is an academician and a civil engineering consultant in Ames, Iowa. Has published in various fields including: geotechnical engineering, foundations, and pavement materials & design. He has been involved with contemporary engineering education issues, addressing a wide range of topics of interest and relevance to engineering institutions and practicing engineers, in the US and abroad.

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On Engineering Design Education: Exposing Students to Design KnowledgeAbstract:Design is widely considered to be the central activity of engineering. Also, it is knownthat engineering programs should graduate engineers who can design effectively to meetsocial and environmental needs. Though the role and perception of design across a widerange of educational institutions have improved markedly in recent years; however, bothdesign faculty and design practitioners argue that further improvements are necessary.One of the defining characteristics of design is that there is rarely a single correct answerto an engineering problem but, rather, an optimal or acceptable solution leading to a finaldesign, presented as the best possible balance between technical as well as non-technicalconstraints. These non-technical constraints typically involve economics, politics, social& environmental issues, ethics, etc. And, while professional practitioners generallyaccept this understanding of design, students, by enlarge, tend to interpret the engineeringdesign process as an unambiguous and clearly defined process undergirded by rigidlyapplied principles and processes of “the scientific method.” Students’ vision and mis-concepts of design do require proper alignment with prevailing conditions on the ground.Undoubtedly, the start of any design course should be preceded by exposure to designthinking and related processes.This proposed paper begins first, by briefly reviewing the role of design in engineeringprograms. Second, it outlines the current research on how design thinking processescould be taught and learned. Third, it explores the currently most-favored pedagogicalmodel for teaching design, namely: Project-Based Learning (PBL). The paper identifiesseveral contexts for PBL, along with some available data on it success. Finally, the paperraises some of the questions that should be answered to identify the most effectivepedagogical practices of improving design learning. Understanding the design process as a discipline-specific argumentative discoursestrategy can help colleges improve engineering education with engineering graduates thatare more rhetorically aware engineers. Importantly, these possibilities align well withABET’s criteria for student learning outcomes.

Akili, W. (2014, June), On Engineering Design Education: Exposing Students to Design Knowledge Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22881

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