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Project Description

Interdisciplinary Design


Design as Creative Model for Technical Education:

The Development and Implementation of Interdisciplinary Studio Models- Graduated National Distribution Concept


This proposal addresses the problem of developing the kind of technical design education required for the future well being of our society and our environment. Based on previous work across school boundaries, we believe that the challenge is to integrate a variety of expertise as co-components of engineering design education: technical, social/cultural and aesthetic. In this proposal, we share our experiences through workshops with schools that support this hypothesis. The first phase workshops include the University of Colorado (UC), a doctoral/research extensive state university with a strong foundation in problem-based learning, and Hampton University (HU), a master’s university, with a deep commitment to undergraduate education and diversity activism. The second stage workshops are open to applicants from other interested institutions. This project researches existing models of normative and cross-disciplinary design education; identifies best practices; and develops and implements models for dissemination and distribution to colleague institutions.

Recent changes in ABET indicate an increased emphasis on design as a critical component of the engineering curriculum. The ABET Strategic Plan intends to “Recognize programs that promote educational quality and innovation by…identify(ing) and disseminat(ing) educational best practices; Cooperate with other organizations to develop programs that promote educational quality and innovation; Expand diversity of participation by … increase(ing) the numbers of those historically under-represented in ABET to reflect the full spectrum of participants in the engineering community; Encourage and accommodate new educational paradigms.” These are the premises for this proposal.

This project aims, specifically, to transfer to faculty at UC, HU, and ultimately to others, teaching and learning studio models to teach engineering design in a way that effectively integrates the technical, social/cultural, and aesthetic issues. These schools along with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, using experienced engineering, social science, and architecture faculty, will deliver two seven day, summer sessions and associated support to help develop and deliver these studios.

During the first year of the grant, the principal investigators will document normative and interdisciplinary studio models, establish a website with a framework for a data bank, set up an advisory board, and begin the interactions with the faculty at Colorado and Hampton. At the start of the second year, the first set of summer Interdisciplinary Design Workshops at Colorado and Hampton will be delivered, which will form the foundation for the course development that will follow. The principal investigators will continue the research on learning and teaching, develop models for course and program evaluation, and organize a coordination meeting in conjunction with Summer ASEE Conference. In the second fall, faculty and graduate students at Colorado and Hampton will develop studios to be offered in Spring 2004 and will cast a broader net inviting candidates from other schools for future workshops. During the third summer, a coordination meeting in conjunction with Summer ASEE Conference will be held, and a second set of workshops at UC and HU for ten invited ACSA and ASEE members will be held. Additionally four interdisciplinary design professionals will be invited to be designers-in-residence at UC and HU for periods during the second academic year of the project, while faculty from the second pilot year will be invited to become ambassadors in residence to the larger net of schools in the future. The resulting inter-institutional, multidisciplinary design pedagogies will be shared with numerous colleagues across the nation.

Four EEC and ABET themes relevant to contemporary engineering education and this proposal: cross-disciplinary partnerships, educational innovation, diversity, and the integration of technology into education. The beneficiaries of this project are both students who will immediately take these design studio courses, the faculty and graduate students who will teach them and ultimately, the faculty and students who will participate in similar studios at their institutions. The end goal of this project is to integrate multidisciplinary design pedagogy into technical education that will: be more inclusive; offer more opportunities for penetration into the discipline; and create design professionals with a broader foundation for addressing the complex problems of the 21st century.

Goals and Objectives

This project aims to build upon distinct, successful interdisciplinary pedagogical design models to be shared and grown with participating schools. These models integrate the solid technical skills and professional education students are obtaining in basic engineering or building science with being educated to be aware of the human context in which they work, aware of the aesthetic contribution they can make to the physical world, and work more effectively and creatively as part of an interdisciplinary team.

The core is the design studio that students take every semester, giving them a hands-on opportunity to bring together the major elements of the curriculum. The studios have been developed to integrate engineering/ building science, and the social and cultural dimensions of product development and innovation.

Our experience has taught us is that successful multidisciplinary experiences for the students require a faculty that are themselves multidisciplinary and understand the associated issues. Unfortunately, these qualities are not always cultivated in a research university where accomplishments and recognition in one’s own discipline are what are often most prized. The challenge is, how to convince other faculty of the value of interdisciplinary collaboration. We have included this in our recommendation for this proposal’s faculty workshops. We believe that the best way to learn multi-disciplinary design is to do it and that we have developed a workshop model that can be a powerful way to begin the teaching of interdisciplinary faculty.


Based on our many years of experience in developing and delivering the multidisciplinary design studios, and in developing a broader group of faculty to participate in the program, we have established the following objectives for this grant.

  • To introduce more interdisciplinary practice into engineering courses through the use of design studio experiences.
  • Educate faculty and graduate students on the methods, issues, and benefits of using the studio method for teaching design through an intensive 5-day hands-on workshop.
  • Establish a catalog of best practices for delivering multidisciplinary design experiences within engineering programs.
  • Assist faculty at other institutions in the development and delivery of these design studios, design assessment methods, and disseminate these results on a national level.
  • Create an understanding about how technical curricula can be transformed through the integration of creative, interdisciplinary opportunities.

Like it or not, we live in interesting times. The pace of technological change is unprecedented and the impacts of technological innovation are often profound. At the same time, there is a growing recognition that significant challenges await us in the years ahead if the nation is to compete successfully in a highly competitive global economy, while also seeking to share social well-being and restore the natural environment upon which all life-and technology-depends. These overlapping goals have prompted a widespread effort to re-think our approach to life and work in an increasingly technological world. Throughout all levels of higher education, there is a need to understand this rapidly changing environment. While uncertainty and insecurity clearly exist, so do opportunities for innovative and creative thinking. During such times traditional disciplinary boundaries are more permeable and new connections can be forged. The complex, multidisciplinary challenges of the twenty-first century demand leaders trained to understand problems from multiple perspectives and to integrate these perspectives into creatively designed solutions. Encouraging future engineers to “contemplate their work in the larger context,” NSF Acting Deputy Director Joseph Bordogna (1997) enlists philosopher José Ortega y Gasset to support his call for a greater emphasis on integration. Ortega writes, “The need to create sound syntheses and systemizations of knowledge…will call out a kind of scientific genius which hitherto has existed only as an aberration: the genius for integration. Of necessity this means specialization, as all creative effort does, but this time the [person] will be specializing in the construction of the whole” (emphasis added). With this as his inspiration, Bordogna asserts that:

“Design becomes the leverage point of determining a product’s impact on our lives. In this sense, when we educate our engineering students we must instill in them not only technical expertise but we must also lead them to examine and question the goals and value-system of the society they are being prepared to build. And, we must also help them recognize that their skills as engineers allow them to alter dramatically the present and future direction of that society.”

To achieve these goals, engineering design education must provide concrete experience in integrating first-rate technical competence with a thorough understanding of the social and cultural context of technologies and the design processes that shape them. This multidisciplinary approach to engineering design education demands that the relevant knowledge base be expanded for facility and expertise not currently being required of engineering students. This same demand for a synthetic approach in disciplinary work has the potential to draw diverse and underrepresented communities, previously not attracted to engineering, to enlist in a more interdisciplinary environment that may have more political authority while addressing the social, aesthetic as well as the technical.

We believe integrating the basic ingredients of design education: a sense of creativity and visualization; sensitive perceptual and communication skills; hands-on modeling and drawing skills; an understanding of the human body and its ergonomics; a design sense, including an understanding of problem formulation, idea generation, and solution iteration; the ability to work well on teams; technical skills, including machining, rapid prototyping to computer aided design (CAD), ease with electronic design media; an understanding of basic engineering science and manufacturing, with the art of functional analysis; an understanding of the basic disciplines in science and technology studies, featuring the art of reading a culture (ethnographic methodology); an understanding of how a product or environment is/will be situated in our lives, or rather, the art of reading a user; basic market and human factors analysis skills; an ability to work at all scales of a product’s context and life history; and presentation skills to convey all of these ingredients at once, is an appropriate way to go.

The design experiences in the program are cultivating in students the ability to function effectively in new situations and unfamiliar environments, to collaborate with a diverse constituency to formulate and analyze problems of varying complexity, and to work individually or in teams to produce innovative design solutions that reflect this “genius for integration.”

It relies on a truly interdisciplinary model, overlapping and integrating engineering, humanities and social sciences, and architectural pedagogies. One of the programs great strengths is that of opening up a technical curriculum to the design studio. Architectural education’s claims to fame – design through critical inquiry and interactive learning – have been transferred successfully on our campus in PDI and in the Interactive Physics Studios and in many multi-disciplinary elective courses for years. The Physics Education group at Rensselaer pioneered the use of the “Studio” approach to physics instruction. The defining characteristics of studio physics classes are an integrated lecture/laboratory format, a reduced amount of time allotted to lecture, a technology enhanced learning environment, collaborative group work and a high level of faculty-student interaction. The studio physics environment employs activities, the web and computer tools and multimedia materials that allow students to actively participate in their own learning and to construct scientific knowledge for themselves. A high priority is placed on allowing students to learn directly from their interactions with the physical world through “hands-on” activities. Specific topics of current interest to Physics Education Group, and to our own study include:

  • Development, use and assessment of web-based and other multi-media materials.
  • Effective use of computer based data collection and analysis technology.
  • Issues related to student grouping in collaborative learning environments.
  • Assessment of student learning as a guide to curriculum development.
  • Assessment, development of problem solving skills in introductory physics students.

The opportunity to examine design as a model for the engineering community can be coupled with Boyer and Mitgang’s question in the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Special Report, Building Community – A New Future for Architecture Education and Practice: How can architectural education serve as an exemplar for other learning communities? (xv)

Architectural design education can be a significant partner to provide the precedent in integrating first-rate technical competence with a thorough understanding of the social, aesthetic, and cultural context of technologies and the design processes that shape them. For this proposal, we have adopted its design model linking hands-on synthesis and analysis, team problem solving, representation and exploration, full-scale modeling/building, and integrated learning in our program joining engineering and social sciences as a template for studio-based, cross-disciplinary, and civic leadership initiatives.

The Association of Colleges and Schools of Architecture (ACSA) highly endorses this opportunity to offer faculty expertise in partnerships exchanging methods to other areas of our institutions. The architects have over one hundred years of studio pedagogy experience and are looking to partner the critical examination of the studio as a template for other curricula and cross-disciplinary programs, especially for inter-institutional sharing. The American Society of Engineering Educators (ASEE) has committed to this cross collateral relationship (see Appendix).

In Building Community, it is clear that design education offers possibilities for all disciplines. Boyer and Mitgang are convinced first of all that “the studios, scruffy as they look, are nonetheless models for creative learning that others on campus might well think about”[xvii]; “that architectural education, at its best, is a model that holds valuable insights and lessons for all of higher education as a new century approaches…that it is one of the best systems of learning and personal development that has been conceived…It continues to offer unparalleled ways to combine creativity, practicality and idealism”[5]. Boyer and Mitgang cite that design education prepares graduates for the “continuing changes in the social, economic, scientific and technological setting of our society…to develop their own analytical framework in which to envision a better society and built environment beyond present day constraints.” It confirms our position to “make working connections with others – engineers, planners, landscape architects, and an array of non-designers – who participate in the making of the built environment [21].

The Rensselaer Product Design and Innovation Program

The PDI program is a dual major program where the student graduates with a BS in either engineering and Science, Technology, and Society (STS), or architecture and STS. The STS curriculum deals with the social, cultural, and psychological aspects of design development. It draws faculty from over six disciplines. The core of the PDI program is the hands-on design studio (based on architectural design pedagogy) students take every semester where material learned in the three curricula is integrated and applied. The challenge is to provide learning and experience in integrating all three kinds of expertise as equal components of design education: the technical, the social/cultural, and the aesthetic. The innovative designer is able to observe the world from a perspective informed by both understanding technology and “seeing” (or “reading”) the mutual shaping of technology and society. The strong technical education allows the product designer to understand the “inner workings” of technological products or systems, as well as to imagine how the elements of these inner workings- entirely new elements or “technological enablers”-might be put to work in previously unrecognized ways. The strong education in the social sciences helps understand ways of life deeply enough either to anticipate a future need in those lives or to escape being trapped by everyday inertia.

All the studios are based on the premise that disciplined, creative design is learned through the act of doing and making. PDI design studios seek to develop active, dynamic drivers of innovation, and strive to uncover, and get rid of, overt and tacit barriers to creativity within each student. These studios are meant to encourage curiosity and risk while maintaining exhaustive rigor and investigation. The development of reflective judgment is a significant aspect of this curriculum. We explore the question “Can the insights central to the contemporary study of science, technology and society make us more responsible designers?” by full-scale intervention in specific communities. A more complete description of the various studios in the PDI program is given in (Bronet, et. al., 2001)

Begun in 1998 and supported by NSF (DUE-9950931), Rensselaer has graduated its first PDI class. We have just completed two external professional evaluations of the PDI program. One was conducted by Barbara B. Seruya PHD and Associates, in which PDI (engineering track) students from first year through seniors were compared against a control group of non-PDI students. See Appendix 2. The evaluation has provided: feedback on the content and structure of the program; material for continued assessment; and verified its significant foundation for dissemination. The results from these quantitative and qualitative assessments of the PDI program indicated that the PDI students are indeed developing into engineering future professionals with an enhanced ability to be innovative, creative, and an ability to define design problems in a more systematic way than their non-PDI engineering counterparts. They are more likely to consider the social and psychological context impacting the design and the client and are a more articulate and expressive group of students than the non-PDI students. They seem more comfortable working as a team. PDI students are more likely to develop positions of leadership. They showed more creativity, referenced social factors, and more clearly defined a problem on tests and exercises as they went from freshmen to seniors.

The second was a 2-day external review in March 2002, using an accreditation model, conducted by faculty in well established and prestigious programs in engineering, design and STS programs from around the country. See Appendix 2. From the report (Downey et al):

“The [PDI] Program is innovative and well-conceived, promising to bring national and international visibility to RPI. Bringing together mechanical engineering and STS in a studio environment gives the Program its distinctive identity. Enabling students to achieve two degrees in four years while completing eight studios is a major curricular accomplishment. Within most University structures, multidisciplinary collaboration is difficult to initiate and harder still to sustain over time… Although a difficult issue for any administration to address, theorizing and enacting innovative support for fruitful interdisciplinary collaborations is entirely consistent with the current climate of institutional restructuring and reformulated ambitions, at RPI and elsewhere… Faculty, students, and administrators deserve credit for the courage to venture into unknown territory…The era of the isolated discipline or department is over. PDI lives on the cutting edge. …As the PDI experience itself illustrates, the need for theoretically-savvy design faculty and design researchers in the United States is arguably expanding rapidly. Many colleges and universities are solidifying a presence in design education, developing programs to meet new needs. At the 300 U.S. engineering schools in particular, ABET’s EC2000, especially Criterion 4 (a comprehensive senior design experience), is already motivating an increase in the number and proportion of design researchers and design teachers on engineering faculties. Engineering faculty and administrators who want to maintain a focus on the engineering sciences will likely be grateful for the addition of faculty interested in teaching design to engineering students, even when such faculty have other than engineering Ph.D.’s”.

Our intent at Rensselaer with PDI was to ultimately disseminate the lessons learned for developing a new cross-disciplinary (not specifically PDI) pedagogy. Given these recent evaluations coupled with our hypothesis that problems of the 21st century will not be solved in any single discipline, we believe that an interdisciplinary design pedagogy actively shared with colleagues around the nation, fostering a new design culture will be a significant way to educate future technical professionals.

Boundary Crossing and the Interdisciplinary Design Workshop Workshop

As stated earlier, successful multidisciplinary experiences for students require faculty that are themselves comfortable with multidisciplinary design and understand the associated issues. These are not qualities found in a typical faculty member who has been educated, hired, and perhaps tenured based on their disciplinary knowledge. In order to extend participation in the PDI program beyond the original founders, we needed to find a way to recruit and educate faculty in multidisciplinary design. In some cases, this required educating them on the basics of design since this is not a discipline common to many fields outside engineering and architecture.

Over the 2000 and 2001 summers an exercise was developed to involve faculty in a multidisciplinary design experience aimed at demonstrating the benefits of this type of design education. It was modeled after the architectural design charrette coupled with the “Deep Dive” design exercises made popular at the design company, IDEO. A small group of faculty from diverse backgrounds were locked in a room for a week and asked to design something. This is an approach central to architecture practice where, through many iterations, “something incredible” happens. In one case, the faculty opted to design a product for a senior housing resident who called her 40-year-old nephew on a regular basis to help her get stuff off the top shelf in her kitchen. At the start, social scientists brought to the groups’ attention that asking for specific help was more socially acceptable than nagging for a visit, the engineers looked at ease of access and adaptability and the architects focused on the contemporary kitchens and whether the room itself should be reevaluated. By the third day, the boundaries and areas of insight were not so clear and the groups became informed teams. Full-scale prototypes were developed, presented and reviewed (See letters of support, Appendix).

The University of Colorado (CU) is the premier public, Research 1 University of the inter-mountain west. CU Engineering’s deep interest in the multidisciplinary enterprise is epitomized by its Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory and Program, by its Engineering Success Institute, and by its commitment to problem/project-based learning. Professor of Computer Science, College of Engineering and Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic and Campus Technology Robert Schnabel, Director of Alliance for Technology Learning and Society (ATLAS), believes that their Technology, Arts and Media campus-wide curriculum has developed quite successful (based on significant outside evaluation) interdisciplinary course models with deep diversity goals. ATLAS focuses on integrating information and communication technology into the curriculum, teaching, research and K-12 outreach activities. The Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory is the heart of project-based instruction in the College of Engineering and links directly into our objectives. ATLAS is “strongly partnered with two historically black universities, Tuskegee and Dillard Universities, and this may enable a furthering of the diversity goals of (this) proposal.”(See letter of support)

The College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) has a well-established record in multi-disciplinary research and teaching. Its faculty holds degrees in structural, civil engineering, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, mathematics, architecture, landscape, planning etc. They have team taught courses from the integration of technology and sustainable design, to western lands reclamation.

Professor Schneider’s course in CAP, The Urban Semester, is exemplary in its transdisciplinary potential. It uses an integrated teaching/learning system called problem/project based learning as its primarily pedagogical tool. Problem/project-based learning (PBL) originated in medical schools in the U.S. and Canada in the 1960’s, developed to improve professional education by shifting from subject- and lecture-based curricula and teaching methods to integrated curricula structured by ‘messy’ real-life problems crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries. It emphasizes team accomplishment over individual expertise, and its method centers on the student rather than the teacher. In PBL, students learn by constructing knowledge and meaning rather than receiving facts or information. The role of the teacher changes from that of transmitter of information to that of a facilitator and guide.

The problems/projects that lie at the basis of this learning approach have clear characteristics. They are essentially ill structured and indeterminate, inclusive rather than exclusive, dynamic rather than static. They often change and are enriched through the addition of new information as they move toward solution, are not solved easily or formulaically, and more often than not tend have no ‘right’ answer but a range of appropriate solutions. As a method, PBL enhances the positive attribute and characteristics of the design studio – active and engaged learning and emphasizes the aspect of shared expertise. All PBL learning settings use the model of integrated, just-in-time teaching by an instructional team, rather than by individual instructors. The designer, engineer, historian, theorist, analyst, scientist, statistician, geographer collaborate across disciplines and fields to establish the structure and boundaries of each particular learning setting. The collaborative relationships between the team structure student perceptions of the interdependence of facts, knowledges and skills, and act to enrich the learning experience and create the ‘learning community.’ The essential values of that community are based on ideas like cooperation, sharing, consensus and empowerment.” The PBL model parallels our pedagogical framework in interdisciplinary design, and both become true exemplars for “authentic assessment.”

Dean Patricia O’Leary and ATLAS Director Robert Schnabel have committed to have “an engineering studio for engineering students on the campus” as well as a “new ATLAS course, such as a course for the new technical certificate program, as one of the pilot courses in this project.” (See letters of support)

Hampton University (HU) is a Historic Black University (HBCU) with a unique university mission committed to diverse national, cultural, and economic backgrounds preparing graduates for the interdisciplinary and global workplace. The School of Engineering and Technology offers baccalaureate programs in Architecture, Aviation, Chemical, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. They are committed to insuring that higher education opportunities in the Engineering and Technology professions are available to African Americans, and to informing the community of significant contributions made to the professions by African Americans.

The Department of Architecture supports the education and preparation of students for professional positions of environmental design practice, leadership and service. The education, as a connection with engineering, the fine arts, the humanities and social sciences, strives to provide an important synthesis of pragmatic, technical and theoretical learning. The Department sets the framework to explore the roles of African American identity in design and other cultural, technical and social factors in architecture education. The Department is dedicated to promoting a global environmental sensitivity and to developing an ability and desire in students to help bring about important social and environmental change, especially in transitional urban areas and “communities of color.”

Dr. Morris Morgan, Dean of the School of Engineering working with Chair Bradford Grant, is committed to offering a multi-disciplinary course where all of its departments can interact (see letter of support). This year’s launching of a Mechanical Engineering Department offers a unique opportunity for a design-based elective between engineering and architecture.

Diversity and Recruiting

In Building Community, Ahrentzen and Groat state that the social and human aspects of architecture, central to many curricula, are those issues that are “often more in line with the career goals and interests of female and minority students.”[101] Architecture schools have been at the forefront of establishing curricula that have international programs as well as including courses on Cross Cultural Practice, on Cultural Intervention and encourage collaboration with other departments such as Near Eastern, Far Eastern, African, Women’s Studies to develop courses. These are the very processes that could be transmitted in the development of a rich transdisciplinary agenda and may be central in attracting minority and female students into technical programs. Our partnership with a historically black college, Hampton, is significant in its specific awareness of outreach and inclusiveness.

These participating institutions (starting with HU and UC) represent schools interested in pursuing interdisciplinary and innovative strategies for attracting, retaining and teaching a diverse, technologically literate and culturally anchored engineering student body. We plan to do the following: develop a data base of best practices in cross-disciplinary design pedagogies; to call together a group of advisors; to develop a pilot template for the two participating institutions; to invite a series of six professional visitors to be cross disciplinary designers-in-residence to help in ongoing studios; and finally to offer four five day summer sessions to design studios with and for other participating institutions. The intent is to use these directed workshops, meetings, website with updated research, data and advising support network to seed the universities to take on their own projects of cross-disciplinary design. For those institutions without traditional “design” programs, this will give them access to design processes otherwise inaccessible. Rensselaer, then UC and HU, and finally a broader group of facilitators will act as brokers for continued connections. Pulling together the resources will enable such schools to grow their own design educators in engineering. This brokering network will be posted on the ASEE and ACSA websites, with links to ASME, etc. We hope that this will seed a National Design Pedagogy Coalition.

The Project Tasks and Schedule


  • To offer courses and curricula across nation to engineering students.
  • To offer more interdisciplinary practice into engineering faculty and engineering graduate students and add to number, diversity and quality of engineering design experiences.
  • To demonstrate how to transform current curricula.
  • To demonstrate richness of individual school conclusions when design opportunities are broadened. For example, PDI demonstrates that a broader understanding of interdisciplinarity coupled with more opportunities to introduce electives and curricula gives many opportunities for design education to be improved and expanded.

Method: Workshops on experiences of people doing it and ready access to course materials, ideas, and experienced faculty. Utilize university-based workshops, as well as existing framework of ASEE and ACSA international, national, regional, section and zone meetings and conferences for dissemination and data collection sites.

January 2003 to July 2003

  • Research phase: Update investigation of best programs that are cross-disciplinary:
    • a. Single discipline such as engineering, architecture, management, industrial design
    • b. Cross disciplinary programs
    • c. Industry based programs
  • Establish interfaces with partner schools; establish sites for workshops
  • Lay the groundwork for the summer, when we will hold first national dissemination workshops (summer 2003)
  • Invite four visitors who will meet with us and work in participants’ newly established studios in the Fall of 2003 and/orSpring of 2004. By working in designated studios for a period, faculty and graduate students would be able to develop a stronger appreciation and understanding of how all the aspects of a studio fit together.
  • Develop advisory board
  • Develop and implement web site and links to ASEE and ACSA, etc.
  • Begin graduate student enrichment – participate in existing PDI, Problem Based Learning or Interdisciplinary studios
Summer 2003
  • First set of summer workshops at HU and UC with their own respective faculty from engineering and architecture
  • First set of introductory meetings at ASEE conference.
  • Course development at HU and UC.

Fall 2003

  • Develop model for course and program evaluation. In the fall, perform baseline assessment of current engineering students. Assessment modeled on PDI evaluation
  • Lay the groundwork for the next summer and set up courses for Spring 2004.
  • Search for, and invite, appropriate number of visitors who will meet with us and visit and/or work in next set of participants’ studios in the following academic year.
  • Set up co-ordination meeting for partnership and one day pedagogical workshops connected to National meeting(s), zone and section meetings of ASEE, ASME and ACSA.
  • One day pedagogical workshops connected to National meeting(s), zone and section meetings of ASEE and ACSA, etc. Graduate students will have registration fees waived.
  • Hold meeting of advisory board.

Spring 2004

  • First set of course offerings at partner schools and visiting faculty are placed.
  • Ongoing advising.
  • Recruit faculty from other schools for second set of workshops.
  • Abbreviated Interdisciplinary Design Workshop and follow up focus sessions will be offered at the pre-ACSA Annual conference. Graduate students will have registration fees waived.

Summer 2004

  • Co-ordination meeting of Spring 2004 course leaders and one-day workshop linked to June ASEE Conference. Abbreviated Interdisciplinary Design Workshop and follow up workshops will be offered at the pre-ASEE International conference in Salt Lake City, 2004. One site where data on success and implementation would be collected.
  • Second set of workshops including five each internal faculty and five each invited faculty from new schools. This would be including new schools and the next level of interface with second year schools. HU and UC faculty to become workshop leaders.
  • Enhance database/website with syllabi from developing curricula and design experiences.
  • Lay groundwork for process of mentoring design studios and program coordinators.
  • Lay groundwork for a continual process and funding support for expanding network of participating schools.
  • Start comparative evaluations of courses and students in engineering.

Fall 2004

  • Regional, zone, section series of 1-day workshops and co-ordination meetings around country -part of existing framework of ASEE meetings.
  • First or second set of course offerings at partner schools placed
  • Continue comparative evaluations of courses and students.

Typical Major Workshop: 5 days – with teaming exercises, Interdisciplinary Design Workshop, debriefing and analysis

  • Day One: Strengths of partners; History of their interdisciplinary projects

Phase 1 at host institutions: Lectures, Discussions and Workshops

  • History of Programs – developing methodology of design informing other disciplines through internal workshops, forums, classes.

Phase 2 at host institutions: Development of a Curriculum/Program

  • Case studies
  • Research dissemination of existing models of cross-disciplinary design education Other models – Refer to “In Search of the Sweet Spot: Engineering, Arts and Society in Design Curricula” Study on Product Design Programs
  • Syllabi, program material, partnering schemes
  • National Dissemination through Papers, Demonstrations and Lectures
  • Fundamental Steps, Institutional Hurdles, Personnel changes
  • Takeaways: Database and materials exchange
  • New Partnerships
  • Days Two, Three, Four: Teaming Exercises and Interdisciplinary Design Workshop
  • A hands-on practicum, is a cross-disciplinary team-based intense workshop developed to generate proposed models of the teams’ solutions by the end of a 4-day period. Each team has a coach, access to the Internet, CAD, as well as to machine and wood shops. The very general schedule includes: Understanding the Problem; Conceptualization; Concept Selection and Iteration; Building the Prototype; and Presentation.
  • Day Five: Reflection-in-Action
  • Presentation of results of Interdisciplinary Design Workshop
  • Debriefing, processing of results
  • Reflections on program


The goals of this national dissemination in Design are ambitious because moving beyond the rhetoric of integration is largely uncharted territory. The project is specifically designed and supports faculty and graduate students anticipating leadership roles in this interdisciplinary design arena. Since the primary intent is to enhance engineering education, evaluations (similar to those performed by both Seruya, and Downey et al, see Appendix 2) will specifically track three different sectors: engineering graduate students and faculty; undergraduate students in engineering; and other design students for baseline or comparative data. Evaluation can be made on two principal fronts: (i) The number of schools who select to participate in the program and (ii) the effectiveness of our model for dissemination. This would be accomplished by each program’s evaluations founded on their own baseline metrics as identified in the Fall 2003 task list, i.e. do they encounter similar positive changes in engineering students, engineering faculty and programs to those concluded in the PDI evaluations. Each program can then develop program outcomes, associated performance criteria and assessment methods, and develop the feedback process for continuous improvement of the courses and/or program (Olds and Miller, 1998). Development of the program outcomes and performance criteria will require each program to solicit input from all their constituencies (students, faculty, employers, and alumni).

Evaluation of this work will be done through several mechanisms: (i) an assessment of student abilities; (ii) student assessment of courses – ongoing in most institutions; (iii) faculty self-assessments; and (iv) external review. We will provide the templates for participating institutions for their individual use and for comparative data. The first will be modeled after that used in the Rensselaer PDI program (Seruya, Appendix 2) where engineering students completing studios were evaluated against a group of students who had not. This extensive report, compiled through individual interviews, focus groups, written tests and design exercises, provided both quantitative and qualitative process-oriented assessments of the experience. These tools have allowed us to draw some positive conclusions about the effectiveness of the studios and how the students’ creative abilities are enhanced.

The faculty self-evaluation will consist of: (i) statement of goals and objectives; (ii) the identification of factors affecting program performance; (iii) statement of assessment criteria and standards; (iv) data collection and analysis; and (v) a written statement of findings.

Reviews prepared by external experts will: (i) assess the quality of faculty, students, curriculum, support services, and program administration; (ii) assess the value of the program to each institution’s mission; (iii) assess student demand, current and future; (iv) assess cost effectiveness, including non-pecuniary costs and benefits. All these evaluation components will also contribute to our ongoing data collection, providing multi-dimensional assessments of individual and national programs. This will be modeled after the external accreditation-like review of PDI by Downey et al (Appendix 2) conducted 2002.

One site for the data collection on success and implementation would be at the follow up workshops offered at the pre-ASEE International conference workshops in Nashville, 2003 and in Salt Lake City, 2004. We can establish a check on an annual basis, improve and develop longitudinal studies for the adoption of new teaching and learning models.

Dissemination of Results

The process of casting an increasing net of workshops as a model for national dissemination is the foundation of the grant. In addition, we have found that one of the most effective ways to help faculty learn a new style of teaching is to work with an experienced faculty member in teaching of a studio class. This is the typical team teaching apprenticeship approach common in normative design schools, and specifically in our experience in Schools of Architecture and in some interdisciplinary design programs.

As scholarly literature on the whole for interdisciplinary learning in engineering is anecdotal, publication will be very important. Conferences presentations, seminars, symposia will remain standard outlets for describing and evaluating the program, as will academic publication. We also anticipate maintaining a strong presence for the program on the World Wide Web including the sites of ASEE and ACSA, as well as all the participating schools. In addition, we plan on publishing a short guidebook that describes the process of designing, implementing, and institutionalizing the program.