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The Professional Spine: Creation of a Four-Year Engineering Design and Practice Sequence

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Design Spine

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1489.1 - 22.1489.16



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Paper Authors


Brian Frank Queen's University

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Brian Frank is the Director (Program Development) and DuPont Canada Chair in Engineering Education Research and Development in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Queen's University in Kingston, Canada.

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David S. Strong Queen's University

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Professor David S. Strong has held the NSERC Chair in Design Engineering since joining Queen's University in 2003. His previous experience includes 22 years in the private sector in research, development, and manufacturing with three companies spanning the metals, biomedical, and consumer products industries.

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Rick Sellens Queen's University

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The Professional Spine: Creation of a Four-year Engineering Design and Practice SequenceIncreasingly engineering educators see value in establishing a connected sequence of experiencesthat focus on engineering design and practice in undergraduate engineering programs. Notablereports on the future of engineering education conclude that students should be provided anopportunity to integrate knowledge and skills in activities of increasing complexity that emulateengineering practice throughout their program (e.g. Sheppard, 2008; Crawley 2007).Experiences of this type exist in some programs but are relatively rare and often not published.Research at our institution and elsewhere has demonstrated a need for repeated involvement indesign activity for students to build competence and confidence in engineering activities({authors’ own reference masked}; Kotyz-Schwartz, 2010).This paper will discuss the development of a four-year sequence of project-based courses onengineering design and practice at a mid-size Canadian university. The course sequence wasdeveloped over the past two years by a committee consisting of faculty representatives from allengineering programs in the faculty of engineering, a student society representative,administrators, and invited experts. The curriculum development followed generally acceptedpractice (Wolf, 2007). The course sequence is being delivered to first year engineering studentsfor the first time in the 2010-2011 academic year and will continue rolling out over the next threeyears.The four-year sequence is a core requirement for all engineering students, and will developcompetence in design process methods and tools, problem analysis, creativity, economics andentrepreneurship, engineering communications, professionalism, and ethics. The sequence wasdesigned to meet requirements of the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board graduateattributes (Engineers Canada, 2009), which addresses requirements of the Washington Accord(International Engineering Alliance, 2009). They also target applicable elements of the CDIOsyllabus.The paper will discuss the process involved in creating the sequence, the course objectives anddelivery for each year of the program, and proposed assessment and evaluation methods. Thesequence will also be compared to previously published engineering design and practicesequences. The outcomes of the first year, including student feedback and attribute assessment,will also be discussed. Upper year students who will not experience the engineering design andpractice sequence are being assessed on understanding of design method to provide baseline datafor comparison with students in who go through the sequence in future years.ReferencesCrawley, E et al., Rethinking Engineering Education: The CDIO Approach, Springer, New York, 2007.Engineers Canada / Ingénieurs Canada (2009), Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board: Accreditation Criteriaand Procedures / Bureau canadien d’agrément des programmes de génie: Normes et procédures d’agrément, 2009,accessed online October 7, 2010 at Engineering Alliance (2009), Graduate Attributes and Professional Competencies Paper, Version 2 - 18June 2009. Accessed online October 7, 2010 at, D. et al. (2010), “First year and capstone design projects: Is the bookend curriculum approacheffective for skill gain?”, ASEE Annual Conference 2010.Sheppard, S. et al. (2008), “Educating Engineers: Designing for the Future of the Field”, Jossey-Bass.Wolf, P. and Christensen Hughes, J. (eds.) (2007), Curriculum Development in Higher Education: Faculty-DrivenProcesses & Practices. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, Jossey-Bass Publishers. Available online at:

Frank, B., & Strong, D. S., & Sellens, R. (2011, June), The Professional Spine: Creation of a Four-Year Engineering Design and Practice Sequence Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18461

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