June 12, 2005
June 12, 2005
June 15, 2005
10.1369.1 - 10.1369.11
Undergraduate Research Teaming Engineers with Non-Engineers
Theo Brower, Meredith Knight, Chris Rogers Tufts University
Abstract At Tufts University we have been experimenting with multidisciplinary teams of students to solve robotic problems. In particular, we have included a number of non-engineers in the team. Engineers are often very good at designing a solution to a problem but often fall short in the area of human interface and in communication. We have teamed them with human factors majors and child development majors in an effort to bring engineering into the non-engineering disciplines and to teach engineers how people think, how people interface with hardware and software, and how to teach. After two years, the program has worked quite well, with all team members appreciating the chance to work on a real world problem, to work with students in other disciplines, and to learn how to work effectively on a team of people with many different backgrounds.
Introduction Seniors in most undergraduate engineering programs undertake some kind of senior capstone design project. These are usually team projects that can range from paper designs to physical prototypes. In many cases, the teams are primarily composed of engineers within the same discipline1; mechanical engineers working with other mechanical engineers and so forth. As a result, all team members have similar expertise and experiences and do not learn much from each other. Furthermore, a homogeneous team does not reflect the composition of a team in the real world where projects require expertise in a variety of fields. A better system would create a team that emulates real world conditions2, where there is only one mechanical engineer on a team of engineers from all disciplines. Or better yet, the team could consist not only of engineers but also of liberal arts majors such as seniors from the child development or education departments. This multidisciplinary team grants students exposure to new and different fields of study and gives them the opportunity to learn from and teach each other.
At Tufts University, we started this approach a few years ago with the Robotics Academy. This NSF-funded academy combines seniors in mechanical and electrical engineering, computer science, engineering psychology, and child development into teams to solve current robotic problems. The resulting teams have been very successful in developing robots as well as learning how to work in an academically diverse team. The child development major teaches the engineers how to communicate by involving them in an after-school program for local elementary school children. The engineers teach the non-engineers about engineering and the design and fabrication of the robot.
The multidisciplinary approach to teaching is not new. There have been a variety of successful multidisciplinary programs including those at Penn State University3, Carnegie Mellon University4, Rowan University5, and Purdue University6. The Robotics
Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education
Brower, T., & Knight, M., & Rogers, C. (2005, June), Undergraduate Research: Teaming Engineers With Non Engineers Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15208
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