Aided by a $100,000 planning grant from the National Science Foundation, educators at the University of Missouri-Rolla are mapping out a novel approach to teaching engineering — one that will incorporate more hands-on design and engineering to better prepare students for emerging engineering careers.
The program — called interdisciplinary engineering — will allow students "to work as design engineers at the boundaries of two or more traditional engineering disciplines," says Dr. Robert B. Stone, assistant professor of basic engineering at UMR and the project leader. The program will also provide more flexibility for students who may be interested in working in new and emerging fields that require a broader set of engineering skills than one specific type of engineering can provide.
"Today’s brightest engineering students prefer to have some control over the courses they take," Stone says. "The proposed program takes this idea one step farther by allowing students to define a meaningful engineering program that bridges traditional departmental boundaries."
Stone and his colleagues in UMR’s basic engineering department plan to eventually develop an undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary engineering. The one-year NSF planning grant is supporting the development of coursework for the program.
The degree would be the first of its kind in Missouri, and UMR would become one of the few colleges and universities in the nation to offer such a program.
Possible emphasis areas in the new program include energy systems and the environment, industrial automation and control, robotics and control, and product design. All emphasis areas would be multidisciplinary, involving faculty and courses from various traditional engineering programs. Students in the energy systems and the environment area, for instance, would take courses in civil engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and engineering management.
In developing the curriculum, UMR faculty members are consulting with industry representatives as well as engineering education experts. Upon completion of the curriculum, the UMR basic engineering department, which is responsible for several freshman and introductory-level engineering courses at UMR, would become the department of interdisciplinary engineering.
Working with Stone on the project are fellow basic engineering faculty members Dr. Nancy Hubing, associate professor, and Dr. Tim Philpot, assistant professor.