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Reflections on the operation of large multidisciplinary projects in engineering, design and design management

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2 Author(s)
J. R. Ivins ; Dept. of Electron. Eng., De Montfort Univ., Leicester, UK ; R. Holland

Multi-disciplinary product design teams are now an accepted project development tool in industry. Many advantages cited are: rapid prototyping, cost reduction and the design of a more marketable product. While multi-disciplinary teams are common in such environments, it is more problematical to offer students in higher education experience of working in such a team. A variety of difficulties are encountered by educators wishing to provide such an experience for their students, ranging from cultural through logistical to the level of intellectual rigour required and the assessment methodologies used. This paper describes the research methodologies and results of an investigation into the operation of a large multi-disciplinary team project conducted by the authors over a period of two years to two sets of undergraduates, each consisting of over one hundred and eighty full-time students drawn from a number of engineering, design and design management disciplines. An action research programme to investigate the group experience and attitudes was undertaken and the principal findings are presented and briefly debated. The findings support the view that the exercise provided a wide range of tangible and intangible benefits. This enables the authors to propose a conceptual model of large multi-disciplinary team working which may be used by other educators as a basis for developing future project modules within their host institution's environment. Finally, the benefits gained, as shown by previous research, for students and staff from such projects are summarised

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Education  (Volume:42 ,  Issue: 4 )