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Using Design As The Backbone Of A Bme Curriculum

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



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Page Numbers

6.1104.1 - 6.1104.9



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Willis Tompkins University of Wisconsin, Madison

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

Session 2209

Using Design as the Backbone of a BME Curriculum

Willis J. Tompkins

Department of Biomedical Engineering University of Wisconsin-Madison


In this paper, I summarize my experiences as an advisor supervising biomedical engineering design projects in three different programs: 1) first-year design course that includes only freshmen but has students in each design group who will ultimately major in different engineering disciplines, 2) the EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service) program that includes in each group students from several engineering disciplines and is vertically integrated with students from different class years from Freshman through Seniors, and 3) the design courses that all biomedical engineering students are required to take every semester.


“Science studies what is; engineering creates what never was.” So said rocket engineer, Theodore van Karman. When we created our new undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we were concerned that students would be getting too much of the knowledge of science and not enough of the spirit of engineering. This concern was in part due to the extra courses in life sciences and organic chemistry required in biomedical engineering that most engineering majors do not take. Therefore we decided to use the attribute that best defines engineering — design — as the backbone of the curriculum. After admission at the beginning of the sophomore year, all biomedical engineering majors take a design course every semester throughout their curriculum. These six design courses constitute a total of eight degree credits.

All engineering students at Wisconsin start in pre-engineering during their freshman year and are not admitted into departments until the sophomore year. We strongly recommend to students intending to become BME majors that they elect to take the general Freshman engineering design course called Introduction to Engineering during their first university semester. This course includes students from all disciplines. In their second semester, we recommend that they enroll in a biomedical engineering project in the EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service) program. EPICS provides a design experience that includes all disciplines and vertically integrates students from all college years.

For all these design courses—Freshman, EPICS, and BME—we solicit real biomedical engineering projects from faculty throughout the university, particularly from medicine and the life sciences, and from industry. Groups of students interact with these clients to define the

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Tompkins, W. (2001, June), Using Design As The Backbone Of A Bme Curriculum Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9964

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