Integrating Undergraduate Learning in Engineering and Business to Improve Manufacturing Education

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project aims to serve the national interest by improving undergraduate manufacturing education. Manufacturing contributes enormously to the U.S. and world economy, including through creation of high paying jobs. This project intends to improve manufacturing education by helping undergraduate students develop a system view of manufacturing. Successful delivery of a new product to market involves a series of steps that include design, construction, implementation, and management. Although companies understand this big picture, engineering and business graduates often fail to realize the connection between these key steps. This lack of understanding stems in part from the failure of undergraduate engineering and business education programs to connect these steps in their curricula. To address this gap, this project will develop learning modules for different stages of product development that will emphasize the inter-dependencies between the stages of the product life cycle. Each learning module will include design, process, system, and business components and feature modeling, simulation-based learning, virtual reality, and hands-on experiences. These modules will be integrated into engineering (industrial, mechanical, and electrical) and business (management information science) courses. It is expected that this approach will enable students to better understand product manufacturing as an interdependent system, as well as improve problem-solving and decision-making skills.

The project has three specific aims: 1) Design a set of cohesive learning modules that introduce key manufacturing stages, from product design to information systems; 2) Cultivate students' system thinking skills as they simulate the complete product cycle, and critique and reflect on product design to remove downstream constraints; and 3) Use simulation and modeling activities to help students recognize and engage in interdisciplinary collaboration that leads to development of professional skills. Product design will focus on graphical, analytical. and computer modeling of a new product (a bicycle), taking into consideration aesthetics, ergonomics, dynamics, and mechanical properties. Based on their product design, students will select manufacturing materials and processes to successfully produce the components that make up the product. They will then model a manufacturing system comprised of the required technology and labor. Finally, they will use information systems, including a modern Enterprise Resource Planning system, to demonstrate how to manage and execute an integrated process to procure materials, manufacture components, and deliver the product to the end consumer. Following pilot testing and iterative refinement, the modules will be integrated into an interdisciplinary curriculum in project life cycle management. A quasi-experimental design will be used to investigate the impact of the new curriculum on the decision-making processes of students from diverse educational backgrounds. This project has the potential to educate future engineers who can apply advanced modeling methods and working with supporting information systems and technology, thus contributing to the quality of the nation's STEM workforce. The NSF IUSE: EHR Program supports research and development projects to improve the effectiveness of STEM education for all students. Through the Engaged Student Learning track, the program supports the creation, exploration, and implementation of promising practices and tools.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date10/1/202/28/22


  • National Science Foundation: $299,998.00


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