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Professional Design Laboratories: Bridging The Gap Between Classroom And Industry In The Senior Year

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.460.1 - 3.460.8

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Paper Authors

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Robert E. Zulinski

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Jon A. Soper

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Dennis O. Wiitanen

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David Stone

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Allan R. Hambley

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Martha E. Sloan

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Noel Schulz

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

Session 1526

Professional Design Laboratories: Bridging the Gap Between Classroom and Industry in the Senior Year

Allan R. Hambley, Noel N. Schulz, Martha E. Sloan, Jon A. Soper, David Stone, Dennis O. Wiitanen, Robert E. Zulinski Michigan Technological University

James C. Rogers California Maritime Academy

This work is supported by the NSF ILI-LLD Program.

The Electrical Engineering Department at Michigan Technological University is integrating senior design projects with its elective communication-systems course sequence to create an innovative senior-year experience. Our newly established Undergraduate Communication Systems Laboratory, sponsored by NSF, parallels the industry work setting of practicing wireless system design engineers. In this paper, we describe the innovative aspects of this project.


Engineering education has been widely criticized for turning out graduates who are poorly prepared to enter industry. ABET has called for more design content in engineering curricula. 1 ASEE has made extensive recommendations for curricular improvements. 2 Among other action items, the ASEE report, Engineering Education for a Changing World, calls for accelerated curricular change to incorporate team skills, collaborative learning, communication skills, leadership, a systems perspective, undergraduate research, engineering work experience, and ethics, among other items. In response, curricular reforms are underway at many institutions, including Michigan Technological University (MTU). 3-11

To address some of these deficiencies, we are implementing a revised BSEE program at MTU. We require our students to take a course in creative problem solving during their first year. In this course, we set the stage for open-ended problem solving, high standards of professional behavior, and teamwork. Also, design, ethical concerns, and practice with communication skills have been integrated into core courses required of all undergraduate EE majors. Finally, we have set aside approximately 50% of the senior year for completing the transition of our students into practicing professionals. We are experimenting with several approaches to the senior-year experience. This paper describes our plans for communication systems students.

Collaborative Education

A growing body of literature shows that students learn more effectively when they actively work in teams and help one another.12-15 One example is Peer Instruction, developed for introductory physics courses by Eric Mazur at Harvard University. 12 In this method, a concept is presented by the lecturer, and then a related question or problem is posed. Individual students work on the


Zulinski, R. E., & Soper, J. A., & Wiitanen, D. O., & Stone, D., & Hambley, A. R., & Sloan, M. E., & Schulz, N. (1998, June), Professional Design Laboratories: Bridging The Gap Between Classroom And Industry In The Senior Year Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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