Volume 4 No.1, Winter 2000

ISSN# 1523-9926


Innovations in Manufacturing Engineering Technology – Integrating Collaborative Engineering and Inaugurating Comprehensive Assessment

Kathleen L. Kitto
Western Washington University
Engineering Technology Dept.

Eric K. McKell
Western Washington University
Engineering Technology Dept.



 The Engineering Technology Department at Western Washington University has initiated two significant and innovative programs involving the Manufacturing Engineering Technology program during the past two years.  The first project involves establishing a collaborative engineering approach within the curriculum and encompasses projects across multiple disciplines and across multiple courses.  The second project involves establishing a five-year plan to complete a comprehensive assessment of the program, create specific and measurable learning objectives, continually improve the curriculum based on that comprehensive assessment, devise a plan for measurement of the learning outcomes through exit surveys, industrial input and senior portfolio reviews.          

This paper describes the innovative approach to embracing collaborative engineering with the Engineering Technology Department and more specifically the changes that approach has had upon the Manufacturing Engineering Technology program and projects that have been completed to date.  While the first two years of the project focused on the lower division students, the second phase of the project will focus on the upper division experience.  A significant level of external support from our industrial partners established new concurrent/collaborative engineering labs and also provided the equipment necessary to provide a state-of-the-art program for the students.  As part of their freshman experience, students use advanced CAE tools such as Pro/Engineer, I-deas and CATIA and FDM technology based rapid prototyping.  The paper describes the changes to our lower division courses in detail and outlines how the collaborative engineering approach will be integrated into the upper-division as well.  The paper concludes with a comprehensive discussion of the significant commitment of the Engineering Technology Department has to the significant issue of assessment, how it affects our students, faculty and programs, describes the initial assessment definitions, outcome of that assessment for the Manufacturing Engineering Technology program and details the five year plan and the strategy to link the specific learning objectives with measurable outcomes and reviews.



The Engineering Technology Department at Western Washington University is involved in a major redesign of the Manufacturing Engineering Technology (MET) curriculum to incorporate a collaborative engineering approach that simulates the concurrent engineering (CE) atmosphere used by our industrial counterparts for product design and manufacturing.  In today’s highly competitive global marketplace, any manufacturing company must produce higher quality, easier to manufacture and sustain parts in ever decreasing periods of time.  Our industrial partners and advisory boards sent a clear message to the department to engage the students early in the program to the multi-faceted collaborative engineering (CE) environment and the accompanying modern Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) tools so that they are ready to become immediately productive technical team members.  The current generation of CAE software tools combined with a collaborative engineering approach has enabled our industrial counterparts to respond to the increasingly competitive global marketplace to decrease product development cycles; academic programs are correspondingly obligated to serve these industrial partners by integrating these software tools and CE approach within the curriculum.  

In order to facilitate the CE method, the MET program is increasing the number of open-ended team based design opportunities within the curriculum while maintaining the technical foundations of the courses.  Although this approach to the curriculum is particularly challenging because it requires a significant level of cooperation and coordination of the program faculty, it also enhances the program for the same reason.  Projects that continue beyond one course significantly enhance the understanding of both the students and the faculty of the true learning objectives for both the particular courses involved and for the program considered as a whole.  In fact, deciding on a common set of learning objectives and outcomes for any course or program must be the first step in redesigning the curriculum.  First the faculty must decide what the learning objectives and outcomes should be on a programmatic basis and then on a course by course basis.  Once this process is complete, it is relatively straightforward to add additional design experiences and team based projects that extend beyond one course to the program because it becomes obvious during the assessment process where these exact opportunities are within the program.  During the long assessment process, it is indeed possible in a cooperative environment for the faculty to arrive at a mutually acceptable set of learning objectives and outcomes.  However, without cooperation or a mutually acceptable set of learning outcomes, none of the truly meaningful redesign of the program is possible.            

Since there are six different programs with the Engineering Technology Department serving 450 majors, it is relatively easy to structure collaborative team based projects.  The six programs within the department are: three engineering technology programs - Electronics Engineering Technology [EET], Manufacturing Engineering Technology [MET] and Plastics Engineering Technology [PET], and three additional technical programs, Industrial Design, Industrial Technology and Technology Education.  Most introductory classes contain students from more than one discipline so that cross-discipline projects and teams can be accentuated.  Students from the Industrial Technology programs and from the Industrial Design program are often used as “student” consultants to a wide variety of projects to add to this cross-disciplinary approach, especially in the upper division courses.  New courses are being created at the upper division to include students from not only department majors, but majors from other departments and colleges.  Senior capstone opportunities are also being sought for additional cross-discipline opportunities within the program and department. 



Many attributes can be used to evaluate team projects, but it is essential for the students to understand that their grades are based upon an agreed upon a set of desired attributes.  This approach eliminates much of the individual student concerns over team-based instruction since they have agreed in advance upon attributes and project goals.  The attributes that were used to evaluate the team members in the Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) class were:

  The attributes that were used to evaluate the team in the CIM class were:

Student team members are given the opportunity to rate both themselves and other team members on a scale of 1 to 5 for each attribute and total points are based upon the weight of each attribute.  It works well to have the students select the value of points assigned to each attribute at an opening class session as this creates a sense of ownership.  Student team members are also given the opportunity to evaluate the team as a whole, on the same scale [1 to 5], on agreed upon objectives for the team.  Since the students have agreed upon both the attributes of a “good” team member and have also agreed upon the attributes and objectives for their teams at the beginning of the design exercise or project, the students feel more comfortable with a team-based grade.  The rating system in the CIM course has worked well and has not caused any serious difficulties.  However, this does not eliminate all the problems the faculty member has in assessing the actual performance of the team or completely eliminate complaints from students surrounding individual workload issues within teams.  Even in the “best” team, not all individuals perform at identical levels; this usually causes concern, especially with students who will be graded on team performance.  This, of course, does simulate the concurrent engineering workplace.  Members of collaborative engineering teams work at different levels, but the success of the company is determined by the collective success and all team members either benefit or lose as a result. 

Another example of teamwork can be found in student competitions.  Recently, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) student chapter participated in the Westec 2000 Manufacturing Challenge.  This is an open-ended manufacturing design competition where student teams work on a project from establishment of collaborative engineering between schools to the development of off-road wheel chairs. 

The SME chapter members decided to participate in the competition and were quickly approached with a project.  Members from the student chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) asked for help in the design and manufacture of a 554 c.c. V-8 engine and six speed transmission for their Formula SAE car.  The idea was brought to the entire SME membership and it was accepted as the project to work on. 

The students worked for several months and then took the project to Los Angeles in March, 2000.  There they competed in the Manufacturing Challenge against nine other four-year universities.  All projects were judged on the following criteria: 

Each student worked on the presentation and the project and it was very successful.  After five months of hard work, the students had the aluminum engine block created, a composite transmission cover and aluminum transmission housing, and other necessary parts.  The project and supporting material was presented at the competition and the students placed second among the participating schools.  The students were excited with the results and knew a great deal more about the manufacture and design of an engine at the end of the competition.  They could not have done as well as they did without working as a team and dividing responsibilities among each other.  The use of several different software packages, machining processes and manufacturing processes used the strengths of individuals while developing a working knowledge of that particular process for the other members.



The Engineering Technology Department (including the MET program) began a detailed assessment effort two years ago and also established a five year plan to effectively measure the expected outcomes of individual programs and courses.  The effort began with several brainstorming sessions for the entire department faculty.  From those brainstorming sessions, the faculty decided upon a list of essential core skills that all graduates from any of the six programs should possess.  Then, the group decided to ask each faculty member to rate each of their courses on a scale of 1 to 5 for all the core skills.  However, it was apparent that listing the skills and accurately assessing course content for them was quite different.  While the survey was completed, the group noticed that each faculty member could rate the courses differently and interpret each skill differently.  Thus, a common definition for both the skill level and the rating was needed.  Initially, a faculty committee drafted the details of the ratings and the faculty as a whole refined them.  It is essential for any assessment effort that the faculty fully participate in both the definitions and the rating system.  Failing to agree on the basic premise of the assessment definitions certainly assures eventual failure of the system and dooms any meaningful outcomes assessment.  

The faculty established the following as the basic list of skills all Engineering Technology graduates should have with agreed upon definitions: 

Analytical Skills  Ability to: logically analyze and solve problems from different points of view; translate scientific and mathematical theory into practical applications using appropriate techniques and technology.

Oral Communication Skills  Ability to: verbally present ideas in a clear, concise manner; plan and deliver presentations; speak and listen effectively in discussions based upon prior work or knowledge. 

Visual Communication Skills  Ability to: utilize appropriate technology to create drawings, illustrations, models, computer animations, or tables to clearly convey information; interpret and utilize similar information created by others. 

Written Communication Skills  Ability to: present ideas in clear, concise, well-structured prose; choose appropriate style, form, and content to suit audience; utilize data and other information to support an argument. 

Project Management Skills  Ability to: Set goals; create action plans and timetables; prioritize tasks; meet project milestones; complete assigned work; seek clarification of task requirements and take corrective action based upon feedback from others. 

Teamwork Skills  Ability to: work together to set and meet team goals; encourage participation among all team members; listen and cooperate; share information and help reconcile differences of opinion when they occur. 

Creative Problem Solving   Ability to: apply a design process to solve open-ended problems; generate new ideas and develop multiple potential solutions; challenge traditional approaches and solutions.

System Thinking Skills Ability to: understand how events interrelate; synthesize new information with knowledge from previous courses and experiences. 

Ethics and Professionalism  Ability to: understand and demonstrate professional and ethical behavior; understand social and ethical implications and interrelations of work, and respond in a responsible and professional manner.

Technology Skills  Ability to: properly use industrial-quality technology appropriate to field; adapt to new technology; integrate existing technology to create new possibilities.

Business Skills  Ability to: accurately estimate production costs; calculate the cost effects of alternative designs; predict the effects of quality control, marketing, and finance on product or process cost.

Self-learning Skills  Ability to: learn independently; continuously seek to acquire new knowledge; acquire relevant knowledge to solve problems.

Programming Skills  Ability to: use higher level, structured programming languages to write effective and efficient code to complete a task such as modeling or calculation, or control equipment; understand and adapt existing structured programs. 

Next the levels (1 though 5) were defined for each particular skill.  This is essential so that the ratings produced by the various faculty are consistent.  An example of these definitions is given for teamwork skills here to illustrate the complexity of the issue; each level was ultimately defined for each core skill.  

For teamwork the following level definitions were established: 

Level 5  Students work in a structured team during the entire quarter.  Roles and responsibilities of each team member are detailed.  Students are graded and given feedback on the output of the team (written or oral report or completed project).  Students are also graded by observations made by the instructor on the teamwork skills of each student.  The majority of the grade is based on this team project.  Includes significant instruction on teamwork. 

Level 4  Students work in a structured team during the entire quarter.  Roles and responsibilities of each team member are detailed.  Students are graded and given feedback on the output of the team (written or oral report or completed project).  Students are also graded by observations made by the instructor on the teamwork skills of each student.  The majority of the grade is based on this team project.  Includes some instruction on teamwork. 

Level 3  Students work in teams on a majority of the course assignments.  Most of the grade is based on assignments worked on in teams (>50%). 

Level 2  Students are in teams for laboratory work, lab reports/papers, and homework assignments.  Assignments worked on in teams are not the majority of the course grade (<50%). 

Level 1  Students may work on homework assignments and study for exams together. 

Level 0  Students may study for exams together, but all graded assignments are individual efforts. 



The MET program established the following time-line to implement the comprehensive assessment activities over the next six years.  By academic year the plan is as follows: 

1999 - 2000  Individual program reports assessing learning objectives, alumni survey, senior exit survey, employer survey, and program strategic plan revisions. 

2000 - 2001  Develop program plans for meeting learning goals and refine surveys.

2001 - 2002  Pilot course evaluations to assess student learning versus stated goals.

2002 - 2003 Institute department wide course evaluation forms.

2003 - 2004  Pilot student portfolio project for student learning assessment.

2004 - 2005  Institute full-scale student portfolio project.

2005 - 2006  Review two year portfolios for sophomores and seniors foe planned ABET visit. 

Although the plan sounds ambitious, the faculty unanimously accepted these goals and considered in detail the importance of the plan to establish clearer definitions of quality and how exactly it is to be measured in a truly meaningful way.


1.      Adams, Vince and Askenazi, Abraham, “Building Better Products with Finite Element Analysis,” OnWord Press, First Edition 1999.

2.      Quirk, M., Manufacturing, Teams, and Improvement; The Human Art of Manufacturing, Prentice-Hall, 1999. 

3.      Altshuller, G., And Suddenly the Inventor Appeared, TRIZ, the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, Technical Innovation Center, 1996.

4.      Newsetetter, W. and Khan, S., “A Developmental Approach to Assessing Design Skills and Knowledge,” FIE 97 Proceedings, 1997.

5.      Altshuller, G., “The Innovation Algorithm: TRIZ, Systematic Innovation and Technical Creativity,” Technical Innovation Center, 1999.

6.      Kosse, V., “Solving Problems with TRIZ,” Ideation International, 1999. 

7.       20.  Clarke, Dana, “TRIZ: Through the Eyes of An American TRIZ Specialist,” Ideation International, 1997

8.      Mazur, E., Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual, Prentice-Hall, 1997.

9.      Schwartz, R., “Improving Course Quality with Student Management Teams,” ASEE Prism, ASEE, pp. 19-23, January 1997.

10. ABET, Proposed Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Technology Programs, 1999. 

11. Martinazzi, R., “A Team Centered Grading System Based Primarily on the Team’s Performance,” FIE 97 Proceedings, 1997.

12. Transferable Integrated Design Engineering Education, TIDEE, Annual Report, February 1996 – January 1997.

13. Rover, D. and Fisher, P., “Cross-Functional Teaming in a Capstone Engineering Design Course,” FIE 97 Proceedings, 1997.


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