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On Engineering Design Learning: Thoughts, Challenges, and Realities

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Design in Engineering Education Division: Design Methodology

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Waddah Akili Iowa State University

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Waddah Akili has been in the academic arena for over 37 years. He has held academic positions at Drexel University, Philadelphia, Penna (66-69), at King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (69-87), and at the University of Qatar, Doha, Qatar (87-00). Professor Akili’s major field is geotechnical engineering and materials. His research work & experience include: characterization of arid and semi arid soils, piled foundations, pavement design & materials, and concrete durability. His interests also include: contemporary issues of engineering education in general, and those of the Middle East and the Arab Gulf States in particular.

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On Engineering Design Learning: Thoughts, Challenges, and Realities Abstract:

The role and perception of design across a wide range of educational institutions have improved markedly in recent years. However, both design 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 answer to an engineering problem but, rather, an optimal or acceptable solution leading to a final design, presented as the best possible balance between technical as well as non-technical constraints. The non-technical constraints typically involve: economics, politics, social concerns, environmental issues, ethics, etc. And, while professional practitioners generally accept this understanding of design, students, by enlarge, tend to interpret the engineering design process as an unambiguous and clearly defined process undergirded by rigidly applied 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 design thinking and related processes.

This proposed paper begins first, by briefly reviewing the role of design in engineering programs. Second, it outlines the current research on how design thinking processes could be taught and learned, and highlighting author’s experience in this regard. Third, it explores the currently most-favored pedagogical model for teaching design, namely: Project-Based Learning (PBL). The paper identifies several contexts for PBL, along with some available data on it success. Finally, the paper raises some of the questions that the author has recognized through his experience, and should be answered, to identify the most effective pedagogical practices of improving design teaching and learning.

Understanding the design process as a discipline-specific argumentative discourse strategy can help colleges improve engineering education with graduates that are more rhetorically aware engineers. Importantly, these possibilities align well with ABET’s criteria for student learning outcomes.

Akili, W. (2019, June), On Engineering Design Learning: Thoughts, Challenges, and Realities Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33139

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