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Training Apples to Perform Like Oranges: A Look at University Teaming Education

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Innovative Teaching in Architectural Engineering

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1370.1 - 25.1370.12



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Paper Authors


Jill Nelson P.E. California Polytechnic State University

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Jill Nelson is an Assistant Professor for the Architectural Engineering Department at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo, Calif. Nelson came to Cal Poly with more than 25 years of structural design and project management experience. She is a registered Professional Engineer and Structural Engineer in the states of California and Washington. Nelson received a B.S. degree in civil engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a M.S. degree in civil engineering from the University of Washington.

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Andrew J. Holtz P.E. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

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Andrew Holtz received his doctorate of engineering from UC, Davis, in biological and agricultural engineering with a minor in engineering management in 2005. He completed his B.S. in 1999 from Cal Poly's BioResource and Agricultural Engineering Department. He is a licensed Mechanical Engineer in the state of California. Prior to teaching, he practiced engineering in the mobile agricultural equipment, construction equipment, pre- and post-harvest chemical, and subsea robotic industries. His product development experience has involved vehicle and machinery systems that interface with biological systems and environments. In addition to engineering education, he continues to work in the area of chemical application system R&D. He teaches coursework in the areas of agricultural materials and processing, CAD, project management, and systems analysis.

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Training Apples to Perform Like Oranges: A Look at University Teaming EducationTo effectively function in the workplace today, people must be proficient in their technical skillsand must also be able to function as an effective team member. In the workplace they must workwell with people of different disciplines and motivations. Universities have recognized this needand have adapted their curriculum to place additional emphasis on teaching the skills necessaryto be an effective team member. Yet universities, constrained by their organizational structureand missions, cannot completely mimic the realities of the workplace business environment.Classes have a finite length and students quickly learn that any problem can be endured throughthe academic quarter instead of truly working out a sustainable solution. Teams composed ofmembers with similar expertise are often willing to cover for the weaker team member due to theshort team life which is usually measured in weeks. In teams with mixed expertise, grades areoften given based on a combination of individual/team effort versus solely on the team product.Faculty continually grapples with questions such as “can a team member be fired” and “if not,what are the realistic consequences?” School is a learning environment where student learning isfostered and students are given second chances. Academic culture, by its very nature, is opposedto unfairness, dire consequences, swift punishment and the harsh reality encountered in the worldand specifically, the workplace. Considering these types of issues leads one to wonder how wellthe university education prepares a student to be successful in a real world team environment.This paper investigated this question through a comparison of university teams to businessteams. Criteria for comparison includes team member motivations, level of commitment,technical competence, discipline, team moral and culture, and personality conflicts. Studentsparticipating on both interdisciplinary teams as well as single-expertise teams were surveyed todetermine their mastery of basic team skills. Recent graduates were surveyed to determine theeffectiveness of their teaming education in the business world. Advisory Board members fromtwo different programs and colleges, Architectural Engineering and the BioResource andAgricultural Engineering, were surveyed to define the teaming expectations in the businessworld. Additionally, faculty with industry experience were surveyed and questioned on thedifferences between the two environments.Problems with university culture that do little to expose students to the harsh realities of careerexpectations were identified and analyzed. Based on the results of these surveys and analysis ofteams performances, recommendations are presented to better shape the university process ofenhancing development of effective teaming skills.

Nelson, J., & Holtz, A. J. (2012, June), Training Apples to Perform Like Oranges: A Look at University Teaming Education Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22127

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