RESEARCH PAPERS: Design Education Papers

Results of an Industry/University Survey of Machine Systems Design Education

[+] Author and Article Information
S. Guggenheim

Environmental Measurements Lab., U.S. Department of Energy, New York, New York 10014

J. Mech. Des 103(4), 687-695 (Oct 01, 1981) (9 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3254973 History: Received June 19, 1981; Online November 17, 2009


Two surveys were conducted: one of instruction in machine systems design (MSD) and the other of employers of recently graduated design engineers who work as designers. Information was obtained on the faculty and the eductional undergraduate programs leading to a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, and the information was subsequently compared to requirements for practice in the field as interpreted by employers. Both required and elective courses of instruction were categorized by topics covered, skills and attitudes developed, and credits given toward the degree. The corresponding needs of the practicing design engineer in like categories were determined from the survey of employers. Of the teaching faculty, 74 percent hold the Ph.D. and 56 percent are registered. The average faculty member has twice as many years of teaching experience as industrial practice experience, a unique characteristic of engineering education in the U.S. Ninety percent of the schools offer a course in mechanical design typically using Shigley’s text, Mechanical Engineering Design , and are, consequently, component design oriented. Only 9 percent of the credits for graduation are given for required courses in MSD. The university survey shows that very few schools give courses in engineering drawing or manufacturing processes. Interdisciplinary courses are also few. Employers reported only two out of the seven most frequently cited topics of instruction to have significance in industrial applications. Manufacturing processes was one of the courses most often regarded as missing. Educators and employers agree that written communication is a highly desirable skill. However, to the contrary, the need employers express for graphics, drafting, and sketching is not reflected in the instructional program. The extensive means employers use to encourage their engineers to advance their careers by registering and acquiring advanced education were also surveyed. The uniformity of MSD instruction reflected in the results of the survey appears to be unhealthy for U.S. industry. There should be more originality and opportunity for systems design. The near absence of courses in graphical communication skills and manufacturing process—basic tools for young engineers—can be expected to retard the reindustrialization needed in the U.S. to compete worldwide. The problem of training top students in topics and skills that are not generally considered college level but without which they function poorly in the outside world needs a solution.

Copyright © 1981 by ASME
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