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Using Insights From Non Engineers To Improve Introduction To Engineering Via Functional Analysis

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Technology Literacy for Engineering Students

Tagged Division

Technological Literacy Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1553.1 - 12.1553.10



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Paper Authors


John Krupczak Hope College

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John Krupczak is a Professor of Engineering at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. He is currently the chair of the ASEE Technological Literacy Constitutive Committee and is a past chair of the ASEE Liberal Education Division. John Krupczak and David Ollis of North Carolina State University were co-organizers of "Technological Literacy of Undergraduates: Identifying the Research Issues," a workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation and held at the National Academy of Engineering in April 2005.

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

Using Insights from Non-engineers to Improve Introduction to Engineering via Functional Analysis


This work describes an effort to identify and utilize insights from non-engineering students in technological literacy courses to identify themes that may enliven introduction to engineering courses. Beginning engineering students may have interests more closely aligned with their non-engineer peers than current engineering professionals. Technological literacy courses on a number of campuses have established that explaining technology from a “how things work,” perspective captivates the interest of a broad range of students. This “how things work” approach is characterized by a focus on technology familiar to the students in their everyday life, use of visual and graphical explanations such as concept maps, and inclusion of information that helps to establish a sense of empowerment upon understanding the technology. Incorporating this “how things work” approach into introduction to engineering will help achieve engineers that exhibit “practical ingenuity,” and an ability to communicate technical issues to non-engineers, two critical attributes of the Engineer of 2020 as identified by the National Academy of Engineering. This work suggests that the visual and concept map approach is analogous to the engineering design technique of functional analysis or functional decomposition. Functional analysis provides a mechanism to discuss how things work with engineering students that is rooted in established engineering design methodology. Additionally, important devices or components in familiar technology can be treated as sub-functions in the functional analysis context. As these sub-functions consistently reappear throughout products or processes developed by the various engineering disciplines, authentic engineering knowledge can be introduced to introductory engineering students. Initial implementation of this approach in an Introduction to Engineering course at Hope College is outlined.


Engineering departments have long sustained a one-way relationship with their campus communities. Engineering students, as part of their broad education, take classes offered by various departments across campus. However, it had been uncommon for anyone but a fully committed engineering major to appear in engineering classes. Few engineering departments offered service courses for non-engineers.

Notable exceptions existed to this rule, and recent developments have fostered a more reciprocal relationship between some engineering programs and liberal arts departments. In 1996 the National Science Foundation’s Shaping The Future: New Expectations for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology called for greater attention for the 80 percent of college students who are not planning on careers in science, engineering, mathematics, or technology1. In 2002, the National

Krupczak, J. (2007, June), Using Insights From Non Engineers To Improve Introduction To Engineering Via Functional Analysis Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2191

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