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Teaching The Business Of Engineering

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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

3.537.1 - 3.537.6

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Michael A. Cornachione

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Harriet S. Cornachione

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

Session 3151

Teaching the Business of Engineering

Harriet S. Cornachione, Michael A. Cornachione Oregon Institute of Technology


Typical of most civil engineering programs, the Civil Engineering and Surveying Department at Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT) requires civil engineering majors to take senior-design, or capstone courses. These courses are intended to expose students to engineering problems similar to those they will encounter when they begin their careers. In keeping with traditional educational methodology, the classes generally become part lecture, part problem development, and part final design. The course instructor, in essence, guides students to a successful, technically correct conclusion. Despite these capstone design courses, students frequently have a high degree of anxiety entering the workplace as they still are not sure exactly what will be required of them. Commonly, students express concerns about whether they can meet the demands of their employers, once they are performing outside of the familiar classroom environment.

In the business of engineering, the hierarchy of an office is substantially different than that established at an institution of higher learning. Recent engineering graduates typically are assigned to a design group of engineers headed by a team leader. This team generally has the responsibility for the majority of design work performed on a project. Senior level engineer review and comment on the progress and quality of the work, but most of the design is in the hands of the engineering team. New engineers-in-training may find they have what appears to be far more responsibility than they either want or feel they are capable of handling. Problems are no longer scripted with a single correct answer. In fact, there frequently is no clear right or wrong answer. Engineers must create a solution based on various parameters including sound engineering practices, time and budget constraints, and capabilities and best judgment of the engineering design team.

To facilitate the successful transition from “engineering student” to “engineer,” a course was designed at OIT to simulate the workings of an engineering consulting firm. The specific course was a capstone design course in environmental engineering, but could be applied to almost any field in civil engineering. Students are told at the initial class meeting that new material will be not be presented by the faculty. The course scenario is then described to them.

Students are new, junior engineers in a consulting firm with the faculty acting as senior engineers for the firm. Faculty members are no longer to be considered teachers, but rather a part of the design team and process. Students are not working to satisfy their professors, but rather are required to perform to the standards of a professional engineer, meeting the expectations of a real client.

Cornachione, M. A., & Cornachione, H. S. (1998, June), Teaching The Business Of Engineering Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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