T9-FY3-2 - Improving Multidisciplinary Understanding Through Interdisciplinary Project-based Learning in a First-Year Orientation Course

1. Innovative Practice Full Paper
Megan McCormick1 , Jennifer Parham-Mocello1, Donald Heer1
1 Oregon State University

Creating modern systems with tightly integrated sub-systems relies heavily on multidisciplinary cooperation. Establishing an early value for other areas of expertise is crucial to encouraging later collaborations. This paper discusses a new first-term orientation course in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Oregon State University that is primarily taken by students pursuing a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. This course emphasizes collaboration and the importance of a multidisciplinary approach in engineering. The 10-week course contains engineering skills, tools, and concepts from three disciplines of engineering: Computer Science, Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. Materials focus on how each discipline supports the other disciplines in modern engineering. Students attend one, one-hour lecture and two, two-hour labs per week. The lecture covers general engineering concepts including engineering process, design, and tools/skills. Student engineers work in teams of three, with each student focusing on a different engineering discipline. Teams design, implement, and improve on a competitive robotic project. Assessment using student surveys shows a 13% higher self-reported ability to recognize and avoid personal and engineering discipline bias from students enrolled in the new course when compared to students in the traditional course. This higher assessment value has a confidence interval of p=.005 using a two-tail T-test. Using student surveys and assignments, additional preliminary improvements were seen in student’s ability to identify the need of another engineer/engineering profession to complete a portion of a project and understanding of other majors.