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Technician-Technologist Teamwork: Multifunctional Collaboration on Industry Projects

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Academe/Industry Collaboration

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Nancy K. Sundheim Saint Cloud State University

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Nancy K. Sundheim developed and is now the director of the Manufacturing Engineering Technology program. Her primary interest area is at the intersection of manufacturing engineering and statistics involving lean, continuous improvement, and quality. She also does research in engineering education applying the principles of continuous improvement to her teaching.

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Aaron J. Barker St. Cloud Technical and Community College

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Colleagues know Aaron as a dedicated and enthusiastic individual with a passion for teaching and the ability to think outside the box. When Aaron became the head of the electronics program at St. Cloud Technical & Community College in 2009, the program's existence was being threatened by very low enrollment. Since then, he has been the driving force for the success of the program and has played a major role in the development of other new programs at SCTCC.

Aaron was instrumental in helping SCTCC partner with Xcel Energy in 2010 to develop the Nuclear Technician Program. The program is designed to prepare graduates for work as Nuclear Plant Maintenance Technicians. The nuclear track is the newest addition to SCTCC's current catalog of energy tracks: wind power, ethanol, bio-diesel, solar power, and fossil fuel energy production.

In addition to his roles as a college instructor, Aaron is also actively involved in volunteering his time to students outside of SCTCC. One example of his commitment to serving students and the community has been his role as the event organizer for the region's VEX Robotics competition. The program uses robotics as a way to introduce middle and high school students to science, technology, engineering, and math in a fun and collaborative environment. St. Cloud Technical & Community College hosted Minnesota's first VEX Robotics World Qualifying competition in 2012 and the event has grown ever since.

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The American Council on Education issued an influential report in 1983 in which they challenged educational institutions to cooperate. The American Association for Higher Education responded by making collaboration a key focus of its national reform agenda. This has spurred a number of partnerships over the past 25 years. Most focus on stronger connections between K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions, professional development opportunities for college faculty, and development of articulation agreements. Most collaborations between two- and four-year institutions have involved improving success of transfer students.

There has also been an increasing awareness that industry needs graduates, from both two- and four-year programs, that can perform effectively on multi-functional teams. A relatively recent review of literature (2016) concluded such opportunities need to be addressed at the post-secondary level. A primary goal of this study is to provide an opportunity for students in two-year and four-year programs to work together.

A secondary goal is to tighten the relationship between the two institutions. The two-year college, a ten-minute drive away, is well-equipped to provide the required, practical, hands-on technical electives for the four-year Engineering Technology students. Meanwhile, some of the graduates of the two-year programs wish to continue their education, but are not very aware of the opportunities at the university. Enabling both sets of students to become comfortable with the other campus could be a win-win.

To address these goals, a pilot study is planned which involves a two-week project for a local company with students from both schools on mixed teams. The courses selected for the pilot have similar enough student learning outcomes that the project can meet the needs of both. The university students are all in an Engineering Technology B.S. program. Students from the community college are in a variety of A.A.S. and diploma programs including Robotics and Automation, Mechatronics, Instrumentation and Process Control, and Biomedical Equipment Technician.

Both courses will cover some of the same content so the students will have a common language. However, there are enough differences in the content that each set of students should be able to bring some special expertise to the table. Thus, the students can learn from one another and come to value the insights that different perspectives can offer.

The students will be surveyed regarding the experience and what they gained from their counterparts. The two instructors are developing a rubric that will be 80% identical so both sets of students have the same investment in the project. This also allows for a comparison of instructor/program expectations. The other 20% will allow each instructor to address some learning outcomes specific to their course. The company will also be asked to provide their perspectives on the quality of the student work.

The project will be run next month so the results and the analysis will be complete well before the draft paper is due. The expectation is that challenges will be identified and, hopefully, resolved so that the next iteration of this collaboration can be longer and more in-depth.

Sundheim, N. K., & Barker, A. J. (2019, June), Technician-Technologist Teamwork: Multifunctional Collaboration on Industry Projects Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33360

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