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The Effects of Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Completing a Radiological Engineering Design Project

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Nuclear and Radiological Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Nuclear and Radiological

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.8.1 - 24.8.10

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Paper Authors


Nestor J. Echeverria U.S. Military Academy

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Nestor J. Echeverria is an instructor at the United States Military Academy in the Physics and Nuclear Engineering Department. He earned an M.S. in Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a B.S. degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Utah. He is also a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot in the U.S. Army.

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Kenneth Scott Allen P.E. U.S. Military Academy

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Lieutenant Colonel Ken Allen, PhD PE is an Academy Professor with the Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering. He graduated from USMA in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering. He is an aviation officer who served in B Co., 3-23 Av Hunter Army Airfield, GA as a UH-60 helicopter flight platoon leader and an assistant battalion operations officer. LTC Allen served as a Company Commander for A Co. 78th Aviation Bn, Camp Zama, Japan. He earned a Master of Science degree in Nuclear Engineering from The University of Florida in 2003. He was an assistant professor in the West Point Department of Physics from 2003 – 2006 teaching core physics and nuclear engineering. After leaving the department, he served two years as a reactor operator supervisor and senior reactor operator for the TRIGA research reactor at the Armed Forces Radiobiological Research Institute, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, Bethesda MD. In 2008, he was selected to be an Academy Professor in the Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering. In 2011, LTC Allen completed his PhD at the University of South Carolina where his dissertation research involved designing an innovative sodium cooled fast reactor for the destruction of minor actinides in used nuclear fuel. LTC Allen is a member of the American Nuclear Society, Society of Physics Students, Phi Kappa Phi, and Tau beta Pi.

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The Effects of Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Completing a Radiological Engineering Design ProjectAn important skill for engineers to obtain is the ability to perform on cross-disciplinary teams.The term cross-disciplinary is used to describe both multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary. TheCommittee on Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research (2005) explains that a multidisciplinaryteam comes together to accomplish a project with each member of the team contributingaccording to his or her unique expertise and then separates when the task is accomplished,whereas an interdisciplinary team works in a more integrated manner combining their knowledgetoward a solution. It has been shown that engineering education faculty researchers whocollaborate in a truly interdisciplinary approach tend to have better quality of work and increasedsatisfaction (Borrego and Newswander, 2008). The purpose of this article is to gain insight intohow well student teams at West Point approach the ideal model of an interdisciplinarycollaboration and show its effect on the quality of work and level of learning while completing aradiological engineering design project that has both engineering and social science aspects.West Point offers a unique perspective on the ability of students to perform on cross-disciplinaryteams. Non-engineering majors are required to take a 3-course core engineering sequence; non-engineers take ABET accredited engineering classes along with engineering majors.In order to make the comparison, students will complete a radiological engineering designproject on either a cross-disciplinary team or an engineer-only team. The project grade will bedivided into various categories: (1) Problem Recognition, (2) Decision Making Process, (3)Calculations, (4) Project Management, (5) Design Completion/Viability, (6) Format & Grammar,(7) Other considerations (social, environmental, political, economic, moral, and ethical).Students will also be asked to complete a course end survey that assesses how closely theyachieved the “interdisciplinary” model and the level of contribution of each team member. Thedata will be analyzed to determine if there is a difference in the quality of work, level of learning,and level of satisfaction between multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and engineer-only teams.

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