J. Froyd and M. Lagoudas, “Multidisciplinary Vertically Integrated Teams Working on Grand Challenges,” 2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition Proceedings, Seattle WA, June 14-17, 2015.
Multidisciplinary Vertically Integrated Teams Working on Grand Challenges
Calls for changes in the attributes that characterize engineering graduates have become common in reports on engineering education in the last twenty years or so. To help realize these changes, we have developed a new approach for engaging engineering undergraduates in projects associated with grand challenges in engineering as outlined by National Academy of Engineering, World Health, and others. The program was created to develop knowledge and skills for engineering design, lifelong learning, multidisciplinary teamwork, effective communication, applying engineering fundamentals to problem solving, and appreciating influences of engineering on people. Undergraduate student teams collaboratively address multidisciplinary research topics associated with grand challenges in engineering. Students participate in the program through teams of ten or more students representing at least three majors and several levels (first-year to seniors). Each team is mentored by one or more faculty members and a graduate student. Started as a small pilot program within a large engineering college in 2012, more than four hundred students have participated in the last three years, earning course credit for one or more semesters. Survey data show students see value in the program in several areas that were the intent of the program design. These areas include learning for a lifetime, understanding design, functioning on a multidisciplinary team, and understanding societal, cultural, and economic influences of engineering. More than 90% of survey responders report that they “strongly agree / agree” that in this course they have taken opportunities to expand their knowledge, skills, and abilities beyond just completing required assignments. More than 50% of survey responders rated their growth in understanding what engineering can contribute to the society “a great deal”, as a result of their involvement in the program. Based on the growth in student participation, continued interest from students and faculty members, the program has been expanded to include industry sponsored projects which are multidisciplinary and vertically integrated. This paper will describe program conception, implementation, and evaluation. The authors will present data on what students perceive as benefits, impact of the program on recruiting for graduate programs, and transferring this approach to industry-sponsored student team research projects.