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Teaching About Methods Coordinating Theory Based Explanation With Practice

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.406.1 - 1.406.6



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Paper Authors

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W. Ernst Eder

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

Session 3230


W. Ernst Eder Royal Military College of Canada


Engineering curricula have mainly covered object knowledge, theories about phenomena and objects, especially in the engineering sciences. Humanities have been attached as external contributions. Another form of knowledge, process knowledge, is also needed for engineering. An integration is necessary in engineering education, the other contexts and influences of engineering must be made clear in a unified way.

This is now possible on the basis of Design Science and engineering design theory. These developments provide a theoretical basis for design process knowledge, which shows how and with what procedures and methods the needs of society can be negotiated and captured.

The necessity for explicit teaching of methods, and of engineering design process knowledge, is urgent. Methods can be coordinated with stages of engineering design processes, and specific methods give systematic instructions for incorporating the contexts of engineering into the problem statements and evaluation criteria. Problem statements must be reviewed, and solution proposals adapted to circumstances.


Engineering is different in certain aspects from science, arts or other activities. The main difference for professional engineers is the duty to solve open-ended problems: -- by interpreting the real and perceived needs of (individual or corporate) members of society; -- by searching for alternative solutions using scientific, experiential, intuitive and other knowledge; -- by making decisions under great uncertainty, but employing some strong analytical tools; -- by providing specifications for implementing solutions, in the form of proposed services (processes) and associated products, to satisfy some of the needs, including (at times) supervising the implementation; -- usually with the obligation to deliver a workable (possibly optimal) solution under time and cost limitations. In these efforts, professional engineers are almost always helped by (and work as a team with) other engineers and specialists in associated fields. They are also helped by technologists, technicians, skilled and less skilled manual workers, administration, etc. They usually act within a commercial organization (including consulting), and must therefore consider company policies, economics, socio-political reality, etc.

These activities are usually termed engineering design, sometimes just called “engineering,” where they lead to products (objects, including software or processes). Engineers cannot themselves have all the required knowledge for any product, they must obtain advice from others and have consultations with specialists, both of whom are regarded as team members. Engineering mostly involves team work. Nevertheless, the responsibility to supply the manufacturing and implementation instructions for the most suitable product or process rests with the engineering designers.

Engineering design solutions to problems (reflecting needs) can be characterized in several different ways, e.g. according to complexity of the solution proposals, difficulty of designing, technical sophistication, novelty, addressed market, etc. These aspects are in part correlated to our impressions of creativity, which is

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Eder, W. E. (1996, June), Teaching About Methods Coordinating Theory Based Explanation With Practice Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6310

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