June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering
26.1748.1 - 26.1748.14
Work-‐in-‐progress: An approach to engineering literacy emphasizing components, functions, and systems. Technological and engineering literacy courses for non-‐engineers face a problem in finding organizing principles and course themes that are characteristic of engineering but are also accessible to any undergraduate without extensive prerequisite courses. This work describes a framework for presenting engineering to undergraduates that is based on the component as a central idea characteristic of engineering. Component is this instance means a physical object created to provide a specific function such as a light emitting diode, a heat exchanger, a wing, or an internal combustion engine. This framework depicts engineering as creating technological systems using components to provide a specific capabilities or functions. Components contributing well-‐defined functions are combined into systems. These systems provide a value or usefulness that exceeds that of individual components. Components are incorporations of natural processes or phenomena. Models or mathematical formulas describing component behavior are developed typically based on the underlying natural phenomena employed in the component. These mathematical models are used to design systems by predicting component and system behavior. The function provided by a particular component can be integrated into different technological systems that might benefit from use of that function. Innovation and evolution of technological systems typically occurs by substitution of an existing component or components with others providing functions better optimized for the purposes of that system. This component-‐function-‐systems framework can be used as a theme in an engineering literacy course. This approach promotes engineering literacy by organizing course material around the underlying structure common to technological systems. All introductory and general education courses benefit from having strong themes that serve to unite course material. Technological and engineering literacy courses that address diverse technological topics without a convincing and fundamental theme risk appearing as impermanent and merely topical in nature. A challenge for engineering literacy courses is the need to include the role of science without leading to the conclusion that engineering is merely applied science. The approach based on components as the core building blocks of engineered systems is able to include scientific principles as embedded in the processes taking place in components, while emphasizing that engineering is the creative use of these capabilities to solve problems. The engineering design process is also an important defining aspect of engineering and merits inclusion in engineering and technological literacy classes. A challenge in promoting engineering literacy based on engineering design is design is a process or a means by which technology is developed not a product in itself. Students in engineering and technological literacy courses typically are interested in understanding the end result, the hardware and struggle with a design-‐centric approach. The design process must involve actual physical material from which designs can be produced. The component-‐function-‐system approach helps students to carry out the design process by emphasizing that components are the elements from which engineering designs are created. Focus on components such as motors, beam, switches, and pumps as building blocks of engineering designs helps to make the design process less abstract and more realizable. This components-‐functions-‐systems perspective has been used in engineering and technological literacy courses at a large state university and a small private college. Results from this pilot testing with these student groups will be presented. In general undergraduates react favorably and are able to understand the fundamentals of this approach to understanding diverse technologies as built around components serving as functional elements that are combined into more complex and capable systems.
Krupczak, J., & Mina, M. (2015, June), Work in Progress: An Approach to Engineering Literacy Emphasizing Components, Functions, and Systems Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25084
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