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Product Design And Innovation: A New Curriculum Combining The Humanities And Engineering

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.811.1 - 6.811.13

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Paper Authors

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Ron Eglash

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Larry Kagan

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Gary Gabriele

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Frances Bronet

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David Hess

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Product Design and Innovation: A New Curriculum Combining the Humanities and Engineering Gary A. Gabriele, Larry Kagan, Frances Bronet, David Hess, Ron Eglash,

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Troy, NY 12180


Successful competition in the global economy is increasingly dependent on a stream of new products and services that will open up new business possibilities. At the same time it is increasingly evident that new products and services must be regarded not only as commodities in a marketplace, but also as social actors which can constrain or enable the quality of our life. In recognition of these two perspectives, Product Design and Innovation (PDI) is a new undergraduate dual degree program at Rensselaer that seeks to educate students for careers in new product development. PDI is a dual major program satisfying the requirements for the Bachelor of Science programs in engineering and Science, Technology and Society (STS). PDI prepares students to become innovative designers who can integrate contemporary technologies with changing social contexts for a new generation of advanced product designs.

This paper will describe the PDI program, its goals, how it was formulated, and review experiences we have had in offering the first three years of this innovative program. We will provide the curriculum templates and discuss how the design studio sequence fits together.


Like it or not, we live in interesting times. The pace of technological change is unprecedented and the impacts of technological innovation are often profound. At the same time, there is a growing recognition that significant challenges await us in the years ahead if the nation is to compete successfully in a highly competitive global economy, while also seeking to share social well-being and restore the natural environment upon which all life and technology depends. These overlapping goals have prompted a widespread effort to re-think our approach to life and work in an increasingly technological world. Throughout higher education, the need to understand this rapidly changing environment is felt at all levels. While uncertainty and insecurity clearly exist, so do opportunities for innovative and creative thinking; traditional disciplinary boundaries are more permeable, and new connections can be forged. The complex, multidisciplinary challenges of the twenty-first century demand leaders trained to understand problems from all relevant perspectives and to integrate these perspectives into creative design solutions.

To achieve these goals, we believe, engineering design education must provide concrete experience in integrating first-rate technical competence with a thorough understanding of the social and cultural context of technologies and the design processes that shape them. This multidisciplinary approach to engineering design education demands that the relevant knowledge

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Eglash, R., & Kagan, L., & Gabriele, G., & Bronet, F., & Hess, D. (2001, June), Product Design And Innovation: A New Curriculum Combining The Humanities And Engineering Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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