"Hiring Other Classes”: Working Across Departmental Boundaries in Interdisciplinary Projects for Senior Engineers

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


American Society for Engineering Education

Publication Date


Abstract/ Summary

Engineering students in upper level courses are often isolated from students in other majors. Project Based Learning (PBL) is a great tool for upper level students, where they can practice the various skills they will need to successfully address workforce projects after academia. However, PBL does not readily allow students to interact with the wide variety of people and fields that engineers regularly do during a post-academic ‘real world’ project, including environmental scientists, policy makers, technicians, interns, and managers.

To address these issues, we adapted Project Based Learning to include collaboration between different courses. “Environmental Design,” a Civil Engineering course with 25 seniors enrolled, “hired” other courses of students to conduct specific tasks of interest to our projects. An Ecology course was hired to conduct macroinvertebrate sampling. An Electrical Engineering course was hired to design and develop a water quality monitoring device. A STEM Education course was hired to complete some water quality measurements. Finally, the students of Environmental Design were hired by an Environmental Studies course to develop a water quality monitoring plan, and conduct additional water quality measurements.

Students in the involved courses encountered situations that they would not have otherwise encountered. Instructors enjoyed working together, but also faced many difficulties related to managing not just their own course. Deadlines not met in one course had rippling effects, requiring other courses to be flexible with their own deliverable contents and/or due dates. Although the endeavor was challenging for instructor and student alike, with some small adjustments we recommend the model and will try it again.