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In today's quickly changing and increasingly competitive market place, it is imperative that manufacturers keep abreast of the technological advances and design innovations incorporated into competing product lines. The term competitive assessment (or benchmarking) has been coined by manufacturers to describe the process of ethically acquiring, inspecting, analyzing, instrumenting, and testing the product lines of other manufacturers. The Competitive Assessment Laboratory at Rowan University is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). In the laboratory, multidisciplinary teams of freshman engineering students from each of the four engineering departments perform each of the above tasks on a consumer product. The laboratory contains a series of consumer appliance test stations featuring PC-based data acquisition systems capable of measuring thermocouple and voltage/current signals. Each station is also equipped with mechanical measurement equipment and portable materials testing equipment. In addition to introducing students to the science and art of design, the Competitive Assessment Laboratory enables the faculty to assess the constantly evolving initial conditions under which the typical engineering student enters his or her course of study.