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Using A Design Course To Augment Program Curriculum And Foster Development Of Professional Skills

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Communication in Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1312.1 - 15.1312.11



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Paper Authors


Cherian Mathews University of the Pacific

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Cherian P. Mathews is Professor and Chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of the Pacific. He received a B.E degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Anna University, Chennai, India, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University. Prior to joining the University of the Pacific in 2005, he held a faculty
position at the University of Florida / University of West Florida Joint Program in Electrical and Computer Engineering. He has also held visiting faculty positions at Purdue University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Using a Design Course to Augment Program Curriculum and Foster Development of Professional Skills


This paper describes the structure of a recently reorganized senior design project course sequence in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at University of the Pacific. The paper focuses on the first course in a two course senior project sequence, a course that was recently reorganized with a view to improve student design and professional skills. Previously, students did not do much design in the first project course; the emphasis was on project selection and preparation of a design proposal. Having had no prior comprehensive design experience, students were observed to struggle in the course of project implementation in the second senior project course. The re-organization sought to remedy this problem by introducing design projects in the first course that would ensure that students had a comprehensive design experience prior to their second project course. The paper also outlines how the course is structured to help develop student professional skills such as oral and written communication, project management, leadership, and ability to function on a multidisciplinary team.

The paper also describes how a power electronics project was used recently in the first senior project course to help augment the program curriculum. The department has not offered many power-related electives in recent history, but is seeking to provide additional offerings in response to local and regional needs. A student survey shows that the power electronics project has served to stimulate student interest in this subject, prior to the planned offering of a power electronics elective next year. Student feedback also shows that the project course has been effective in developing student design and professional skills.


The major design experience of students in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at University of the Pacific occurs in a two-course Senior Project sequence. A few years ago, the first project course focused on an introduction to design processes, with students concurrently working to define a project and prepare a design proposal. Students did not begin seriously working on the design project until they were in the second project course, at the end of which a functional deliverable was expected. Not having prior experience with a major design project, students were slow in making progress on their projects in the second course. Similar experiences were reported by Tranquillo and Cavanagh of Bucknell University1. The solution at Bucknell was to create a rapid design challenge in which students embarked on a rapid comprehensive design experience prior to beginning their senior design course. To remedy this problem at University of the Pacific, the first senior project course was reorganized such that it exposed students to a comprehensive design experience in a structured environment. This paper describes the organization of the first senior project course using the Fall 2009 semester projects to illustrate its constitution.

Several authors have discussed the development of student professional skills2 and how to do this in the context of design.3,4 The senior project course re-organization at University of the Pacific

Mathews, C. (2010, June), Using A Design Course To Augment Program Curriculum And Foster Development Of Professional Skills Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16279

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