Sustaining Interdisciplinary Projects in Green Engineering: Teaching to Support Distributed Work

Marie C. Paretti, David M. Richter, and Lisa D. McNair
Department of Engineering Education, Virginia Tech
E-mail: mparetti@vt.edu, richterd@vt.edu, lmcnair@vt.edu

Abstract:
Design projects associated with sustainability efforts often require interdisciplinary student teams to address technical, social, and environmental concerns. While educators are increasingly seeking to understand and actively teach interdisciplinary collaboration skills, less attention has been given to the structure and context of such teams. In this paper, we draw on prior research to analyze interdisciplinary teams as sites of distributed work. Using frameworks that identify key character- istics of co-located and distributed work, we identify key factors in interdisciplinary design teams that may inhibit collaboration. We conclude with strategies for faculty to help sustain such teams through concrete course management practices and through explicit learning outcomes that can help students transfer teaming skills learned in this environment to new projects.

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