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Using The Engineering Design Process To Re Envision Multidisciplinary Educational Experiences For Engineering Students

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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

Multidisciplinary Teams

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1570.1 - 12.1570.14



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Paper Authors


Durward Sobek Montana State University

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Durward K. Sobek II is an Associate Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Montana State University. He holds Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan, and an A.B. degree in Engineering Sciences from Dartmouth College. His current focus areas include new product development, engineering design education, and health care delivery systems.

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Carolyn Plumb Montana State University

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Carolyn Plumb is the Director of Educational Innovation and Strategic Projects in the College of Engineering at Montana State University. She works on various curriculum and instruction projects including instructional development for faculty and graduate students, assessment of student learning, and program evaluation. Prior to coming to MSU, Plumb was at the University of Washington, where she directed the Engineering Communication Program. While at the UW, Plumb also worked as an Instructional Development and Assessment Specialist for the School of Law.

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

Using the Engineering Design Process to Re-Envision Multi- Disciplinary Educational Experiences for Engineering Students

Abstract Accredited engineering programs need to show that their students learn how to effectively “function on multi-disciplinary teams.” This skill is important not only for accreditation but also to employers and to educators themselves, who understand the changing world of engineering work. In the summer of 2005, the College of Engineering at Montana State University embarked on a study of multi-disciplinary engineering education within the college. This study followed the engineering design process. After an information-gathering stage, an ad-hoc cross-disciplinary team of faculty developed and refined multi-disciplinary learning objectives, criteria for evaluating alternatives, and several alternatives for the best local option for multi-disciplinary learning. The alternatives were then evaluated using a selection matrix. The top alternatives were further refined and taken to the broader faculty for comment. We are now at the stage of implementing our chosen solution. Using the engineering design process for the year-long study was surprisingly successful in developing buy-in from faculty and administration. This paper presents in a fair amount of detail our process and results. This process could be useful for other engineering programs considering curriculum changes.


Curriculum reform in higher education is a difficult process, and engineering education is no exception. Making curricular changes is time-consuming and can be polarizing and frustrating. Gaining consensus from various constituencies, including students, faculty, and industry partners, is difficult at best. Fully understanding the inherent difficulty of the task, Montana State University (MSU) faculty undertook a study to determine how to reform our engineering curriculum to offer students a multi-disciplinary experience. We approached the study by explicitly following a process that would be widely recognized as an engineering design process. Our thought was that using an engineering design process, a familiar one to faculty, would help to validate the work and gain faculty buy-in.

A survey of the titles and abstracts of Journal of Engineering Education papers published in the last dozen years showed many publications whose purpose was to discuss course and curriculum changes1,2,3,4,5,6,7. Although this search is not comprehensive, we found that none of these publications about course and curriculum reform specifically described a process that mimicked an engineering design process.

In this paper, we describe how we organized and conducted our curriculum study around an engineering design process, and how doing so not only helped us to approach curricula in the same thorough manner in which engineers approach technical problems but also helped us

Sobek, D., & Plumb, C. (2007, June), Using The Engineering Design Process To Re Envision Multidisciplinary Educational Experiences For Engineering Students Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1861

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