Engineering Design and Communication: The Case for Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Penny L. Hirsch, Barbara L. Shwom, Charles Yarnoff, John C. Anderson, David M. Kelso, Gregory B. Olson, and J. Edward Colgate
Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Northwestern University
Evanston IL 60208, USA

This paper describes an innovative, interdisciplinary, project-based freshman course at North- western University — Engineering Design and Communication (EDC). The course fully integrates engineering design with freshman communication and is taught collaboratively by faculty from Engineering and from Arts and Sciences. Working on real projects for real clients, students acquire skills in communication, design, and teamwork and also come to see design and communication as complementary parts of the same iterative and creative problem-solving enterprise. We argue that this interdisciplinary approach improves the teaching of both communication and design and provides students with an exceptionally solid foundation for their future engineering courses and careers.


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