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Designing from day one - engaging our students with a multi-disciplinary approach to engineering

Prof Christopher Hutchinson | Monash University

Designing from day one - engaging our students with a multi-disciplinary approach to engineering

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Prior to 2015, the 1st year Engineering curricula at Monash was structured in a traditional manner - a 'common first year' of foundation units with discipline specific classes delivered by each Department: Civil, Chemical, Mechanical, Electrical and Materials. In 2015, the discipline specific units were replaced by three new interdisciplinary 'design and build' units. ENG1001 Engineering Design: 'Lighter, Stronger, Faster' (Civil, Mechanical and Materials) ENG1002 Engineering Design: 'Cleaner, Safer, Smarter' (Chemical, Electrical and Materials) ENG1003 Engineering Mobile Applications (Faculties of Engineering and IT) This change was motivated by several factors but a key aspect was that practising engineers solve problems by working in teams of people with complementary skillsets. The new units require students to work in allocated teams of 3-4 students (assembled considering personality types), supported by incorporating 'teamwork skills development' into the units. In this talk we introduce the 'Cleaner, Safer, Smarter' unit, including the challenges faced in delivering a 'design and build' unit to a class of ~900 students. Artificial lighting technologies is used as the unit narrative and we track the improvements in lighting efficiency over time linking into questions of sustainability. We consider combustion forms of lighting (chemical engineering), through to the introduction of electricity and electrical engineering concepts (circuit analysis and design of smart, efficient solutions), followed by the use of the incandescent light bulb, compact fluorescent light bulb and light emitting diode to introduce thermal, optical and electrical properties of materials. Lectures are replaced with Expert-led sessions where student participation is emphasised. In addition to the technical content, the development of teamwork skills (team roles, project planning, conflict resolution, etc.) creative design and even critique and assessment of work is fostered. Feedback from students has been very positive, even though the units require substantial preparation prior to each weeks expert-led sessions and labs.