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Re Thinking The Relationship Between Engineering Design And Engineering Science Within An Inclusive Framework Of Professional Practice

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Assessing Design Coursework

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1020.1 - 13.1020.10



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Paper Authors


Marcia Friesen University of Manitoba

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Marcia Friesen, P.Eng., is a Ph.D. student in engineering at the University of Manitoba, Canada. She holds a bachelor degree in engineering and a master degree in education. Currently, she is the director of the Internationally Educated Engineering Qualifications Program at the University of Manitoba.

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

Re-thinking the Relationship between Engineering Design and Engineering Science within an Inclusive Framework of Professional Practice


Engineering design continues to be focal point in undergraduate engineering education. Developments over the past two decades include a body of literature of design course and curriculum models, the emergence of research and scholarship in teaching and learning engineering design, and the emergence of a discipline of engineering education. Ongoing challenges include an artificial separation of engineering science and engineering design in the undergraduate curriculum, definitions of engineering design that are at odds with engineering design in practice, and a perceived lack of visibility of engineering within larger society. In this essay, Thomas Kuhn’s concept of incommensurability, aspects of constructivist epistemology, and Thomas Green’s framework of professional conscience are used to structure an expanded framework for engineering design, and more broadly, for engineering education and practice itself.

Developments in Engineering Design Education

Engineering design continues to be focal point of discussion and activity in undergraduate engineering education, with the broadly-stated objective to educate engineers with practice-ready design skills and the soft skills required of practicing professionals. Engineering design education requires an integration of mathematics, basic sciences, engineering sciences, and complementary studies, facilitated through pedagogical approaches that highlight the inductive, synthesizing, open-ended, and experiential nature of engineering design. Design content and pedagogy stand in contrast to and fight for visibility and acceptance within an undergraduate curriculum that has traditionally been shaped around specialized, bounded, and highly-delineable areas of engineering theory – or what is often called engineering science.

One metaphor by which to characterize the relationship may be to think of engineering science as the family patriarch, who has throughout his lifetime worked hard and effectively, with dedication and commitment, to build a family of honour and service to society. Engineering design may be one of the children of the family, an adult daughter coming into her own, with unique perspectives, priorities and proposals for new traditions for which she is seeking space and voice in the family, also with the intention to continue a tradition of strength, honour, and service.

Since the 1980s, active discourse around engineering design has given engineering education a considerable body of knowledge related to engineering design. Initial efforts focussed on developing a body of literature to showcase and exchange design course and curriculum initiatives. Many of these early efforts could be termed ‘show and tell’ approaches, in which journal articles emphasized description over evaluation and critical analyses. While they may have lacked the rigour and the research components inherent in academic (typically scientific) scholarship, these important early efforts were invaluable in disseminating application-level information to other engineering educators and illuminating necessary next steps1.

Friesen, M. (2008, June), Re Thinking The Relationship Between Engineering Design And Engineering Science Within An Inclusive Framework Of Professional Practice Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4454

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