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Principles and Strategies for Developing and Implementing an Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Curriculum

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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

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1177.1 - 22.1177.11



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Paper Authors


Reid Bailey University of Virginia

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Reid Bailey is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Systems and Information Engineering at the University of Virginia.

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Alexandra Emelina Coso Georgia Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Alexandra Coso is a graduate student in the Cognitive Engineering Center at Georgia Tech, where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering. She received her B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from MIT and her M.S. in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia. Her research interests include interdisciplinary engineering education, mixed method research, and cognitive engineering.

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Heather T. Rowan-Kenyon Boston College

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Michael J Cabral Virginia Commonwealth University


Joanne Bechta Dugan University of Virginia

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Joanne Bechta Dugan is Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Director of the Computer Engineering Program at the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on probabilistic assessment of the dependability of computer-based systems. She has developed the Dynamic Fault Tree model, which extends the applicability of fault tree analysis to computer systems. Her research interests include hardware and software reliability engineering, dependable computing, system health management and mathematical modeling using dynamic fault trees, Markov models, and Bayesian networks. Her current focuses on the development of new technologies and engineering approaches to evaluate and improve engineering education, both in traditional classroom setting and in non-traditional on-line settings. Dr. Dugan holds a B.A. degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from La Salle University, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Duke University.

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Marie F. Creager University of Virginia

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Developing and Implementing a Strategy for Transporting the Technology Leaders ProgramTraditional undergraduate engineering disciplines, due to their focus on singledisciplines, cannot meet the growing need for engineers skilled in multiscale design: theyeducate engineers to handle systems issues or component issues, but not both.Furthermore, many interdisciplinary programs in engineering are more focused ondeveloping knowledge and skills in multiple component-level domains (e.g.,mechatronics focuses on developing component level knowledge in electrical,mechanical, and computer domains) than in component-level and systems-level areas.These observations serve as the basis for the Technology Leaders Program (TLP), atransportable interdisciplinary program being developed at the University of the BlueRidge and Central Community College. The TLP is designed to develop in students 1) adeep understanding of the need for interdisciplinary knowledge that is at bothcomponent- and systems-levels, 2) disciplinary grounding in a component-level domain(electrical and computer engineering) and a systems-level area (systems engineering), 2)integration skills whereby students can design integrated systems of electrical andcomputer components, and 4) critical awareness of the need for this combination ofknowledge and the opportunities and limitations for its application. Development andimplementation of the TLP began in 2008 with the first class of students entering theprogram as sophomores in 2009 and graduating in 2012.The purpose of this paper is to report on four dimensions of developing the TLP at theUniversity of the Blue Ridge. These four areas represent a shift from primarily focusingon implementing the TLP to developing and implementing a strategy for transportingsuccessful aspects of the TLP to other institutions. 1) the junior-level TLP class which is focused on integration of knowledge and skills from electrical, computer, and systems engineering. The course, first run during the 2011-12 academic year, is hands-on and focuses on real applications of the three disciplines. Students in the course will have each completed fundamental courses (i.e., disciplinary grounding) in both systems engineering and electrical and computer engineering prior to the junior-level course. 2) a formative evaluation of the second year of TLP development; the evaluation is based on data collected through observations, interviews, and a survey instrument focused on leadership; 3) based on feedback from students and observations of TLP faculty, two factors have emerged to be critical to the success of the TLP at the University of the Blue Ridge: the TLP Learning Community and the relationships with industry. The TLP Learning Community provides a place for students to build community and to reflect on the integration of the three fields. As most classes in the TLP existed prior to the TLP and have both TLP and non-TLP students, the sense of identity provided by the Learning Community has proven to be important. The relationships with industry are manifested by direct interaction between the companies and TLP students and improved access to internships and jobs for TLP students. By seeing examples of projects from industry at the intersection of systems, electrical, and computer engineering and experiencing the demand from industry to hire students with such knowledge and skills, TLP students’ understanding of the need for interdisciplinary knowledge that is at both component- and systems-levels is deepened. 4) the transition from implementation of the TLP to transporting the program to other institutions. The strategy developed to execute this transition is multi- faceted, including a special session at the Frontiers in Education Conference, a workshop at the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, and a multi-day teaching workshop. Furthermore, the strategy aims to transport the program at different levels: transporting successful components of the program (e.g., the learning community), key themes of the program (e.g., systems integration incorporated into engineering curricula), or the entire program.In addition to reporting on these four areas of the TLP, we will also look ahead toupcoming challenges including the execution of interdisciplinary TLP capstone projects.

Bailey, R., & Coso, A. E., & Rowan-Kenyon, H. T., & Cabral, M. J., & Dugan, J. B., & Creager, M. F. (2011, June), Principles and Strategies for Developing and Implementing an Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Curriculum Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18977

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