Engineering Design at Harvey Mudd College: Innovation Institutionalized, Lessons Learned PUBLIC ACCESS

[+] Author and Article Information
Clive L. Dym, M. Mack Gilkeson, J. Richard Phillips

Department of Engineering,  Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA 91711-5990

J. Mech. Des 134(8), 080202 (Aug 29, 2012) (10 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4006890 History: Received February 07, 2012; Revised May 03, 2012; Published July 24, 2012; Online August 29, 2012

This paper outlines the development of Harvey Mudd College’s Engineering program, describes its resulting form, and articulates how some truly innovative ideas in engineering design education, now widely accepted as “best practices,” were developed and implemented. The paper also describes the lessons learned from Harvey Mudd College’s Engineering curriculum, as well as some of the efforts made to disseminate these lessons.

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) awarded the 2012 Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering Technology and Education to the authors for “creating and disseminating innovations in undergraduate engineering design education to develop engineering leaders.” Specifically, as stated by the NAE:
  • Clive L. Dym created the program’s formal design instruction and contributed to a hands-on studio component for the freshman projects class. Dym also advocated the integration of the design and making of tools and prototypes into that class. This helped students learn about manufacturing and design and how to communicate about their work.
  • Dym is the driving force behind the Mudd Design Workshops, which bring together a wide range of institutions to discuss engineering education and their shared experiences.
  • M. Mack Gilkeson is the co-inventor and cofounder of the Clinic program, a hands-on approach to teaching engineering in which small teams of students are given real-life design problems to solve from industry partners.
  • The program was controversial at its outset because this approach defied conventional wisdom and went very much counter to the then-prevailing thinking about engineering curricula.
  • Thus, while the Clinic program initially faced concerns, even some internally, Gilkeson and his colleagues proved it could work and it became a model for many other institutions.
  • J. Richard Philips was the Engineering Clinic director for 17 yr and transitioned the Clinic into a sustainable program that is now integral to the overall Harvey Mudd Engineering curriculum.
  • He also was directly involved in the establishment of Clinic programs in other colleges and universities. The program has now extended to other departments in the college, influencing fields outside of engineering as well.
  • Phillips also was instrumental in the development of the Experimental Engineering Laboratory to give students a deeper and more intuitive grasp of concepts they learn in their theory classes.

JMD’s editor P. Y. Papalambros invited the authors to submit a paper describing the evolution of Harvey Mudd College’s (HMC) engineering program and putting forth “ideas and insights you gained from your experiences that would be unique, useful, and inspirational to others.” [1] Thus, this paper details HMC’s Engineering curriculum, how it was put together by its “founding fathers” (and they were all men), how it works and how well it works. Particular attention will be paid to Engineering Clinic, to HMC’s first-year design class, and to the Mudd Design Workshops (MDWs). (The founding Engineering faculties were “doers” who did not create a voluminous record of what they did. In a similar vein, in a failing all too common in many institutions, even younger and newer HMC colleagues do not really know the history of the curriculum they teach, because that story has not been told very often.) The paper will close with a modest collection of lessons learned.

Harvey Mudd College was founded in 1955 as a private “liberal arts college of science and engineering” [2]. A conscious effort was made to develop a curriculum that would, as stated in the first HMC catalog, seek “to educate engineers, scientists, and mathematicians so that they may assume leadership in their fields with a clear understanding of the impact of their work on society” [2-3]. HMC is a small college; some faculty and student data are displayed in Table 1 [4].

In the aftermath of World War II and based on partial readings of the Grinter Report [5], engineering curricula strongly emphasized the rigors of Engineering science at the expense of “hands-on” experiences and certainly at the expense of engineering design. During 1962–1964, the HMC engineering faculty developed a novel engineering curriculum that exemplified the Herbert A. Simon’s 1969 premise [6] that “design is the distinguishing feature of engineering…” Thus, emerged the Harvey Mudd Engineering approach:
  • choose breadth over disciplinary narrowness and
  • place experiential learning (long before the term came into use) on an equal footing with book learning.
Experiential learning is now widely used and accepted. As detailed below, Harvey Mudd College played a leading role in fostering the acceptance that project-based design experience helps produce self-confident students who function as engineers armed with both technical expertise and other skills attendant to sound professional practice. Those skills include communication, teamwork and leadership, along with a clear understanding of professional ethics. Thus, the Harvey Mudd Engineering paradigm, which has evolved and been refined over the years since, has since the early 1960s included (and required of their students):
  • Open-ended, ill-structured design problems that are matched to the students’ levels of sophistication from their first year to their last, that require students to be inventive and to deal with large and unfamiliar volumes of information, and that help students to “learn to think (and perform) in a world of noise.”
  • Team deliverables, including oral and written proposals, reviews, and reports, as well as models and/or prototypes, to real, external clients who set forth their own (and their users’) needs and wishes. These deliverables foster communication and teamwork skills.
  • Team effort, with student-selected team leaders, peer evaluations of team member performances, along with discussions about and faculty feedback on team dynamics.

The Harvey Mudd Engineering curriculum sits on a strong foundation that is provided by the HMC coordinated, common core that is required for all HMC majors (Table 2). The other HMC majors are Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics and Physics, and two combined majors: Biochemistry and Quantitative Biology. One of the hallmarks of the Harvey Mudd paradigm and its HMC common core is that every HMC student takes at least one course in every HMC major. Thus, the “Baby Stems” course listed in Table 2 is the first course in Engineering’s engineering systems and signals sequence emphasis and, even though it is a tough and rigorous engineering class, it is required of all HMC students.

The second major hallmark of a Harvey Mudd education is a very strong emphasis on Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts (HSA). This particular emphasis on breadth is consistent with HMC’s current mission statement (It is interesting that HMC’s first formal mission statement did not include this emphasis, although it was clearly envisaged in the original curriculum planning [2], as also illustrated in Table 2.). In fact, HMC’s Engineering curriculum requires 128 credits overall with 37.5 (∼29%) in HSA. This emphasis on HSA is almost unheard of in U.S. engineering programs generally; at HMC that emphasis is very strongly supported by Engineering faculty.

The Engineering major at Harvey Mudd is built around three interwoven strands that reflect its core values and goals, as displayed in Tables  345:
  • a foundational strand of five engineering science courses (Table 3);
  • an integrative strand of three engineering systems and signals courses (Table 4);
  • a five course design and professional practice strand that implements and realizes professional engineering design results (Table 5).

This last stem, design and professional practice, more than any other, sets HMC’s Engineering program apart. Beginning in their very first year, students pursue a graduated sequence of project-based design experiences that allows them to function as engineers, gaining both technical expertise and the skills attendant to sound professional practice. The sequence focuses on work in teams on open ended, externally driven design projects that, over the course of the curriculum, encompass conceptual, preliminary, and detailed design. The required curricular elements of the design and professional practice stem are listed in Table 5.

Engineering Clinic is the manifestation of the success of the design and professional practice paradigm: Small teams of students carry out design, development and research projects for paying corporate and government sponsors. The design strand includes other elective courses as well, but those listed in Table 5 represent the innovative curricular model developed in the 1960s (with further details below) and consistently maintained and nourished at Harvey Mudd for some 50 yr.

Note that both in the first-year design class, E4, which is taught in studio mode, and even more so in Clinic projects, students take the initiative in defining their client-proposed problems, organizing and implementing solutions, and in presenting and documenting results and setting deadlines. The faculty teaching E4 and advising Engineering Clinic teams are not team members. Rather, they are coaches and advisers who teach and emphasize “the rules of the game.”

By working in teams on open-ended design problems, students must conceptualize and articulate their goals, draw upon information, apply knowledge practically, and manage projects collaboratively—they must learn to be engineers. The first three years of study, including a one-semester Clinic experience in the junior year, are preparation for the two-semester senior-year, capstone Clinic experience. In the Clinic, team members meet and communicate regularly with the sponsor’s representatives and usually travel to the sponsor’s corporate site for an orientation to the project. Teams are responsible for managing a project budget, making oral presentations on campus and to the sponsor, and producing deliverables, which may include written reports, software or prototype devices, on time.

What follows here is not a comprehensive, authorized history (see Refs. [7-12]). Rather, it is a skeletal description of the key innovations in Harvey Mudd’s experiential, design-oriented and project-oriented curriculum that was famously depicted by the analogy [8] that “I have from personal experience gained the idea that engineering was like dancing; you don’t learn it in a lecture hall, you learn it by getting out on dance floor and stepping on people’s toes.”

Both the first-year design course (“E4”) and three semesters of Engineering Clinic are required for an HMC Engineering degree in engineering. Engineering Clinic developed in part because of its founders’ experience in industry, and in part because of their perceptions of the education of professionals generally and of the impact of clinical education in medicine [7]. The Clinic originators wanted to get design instruction away from the lecture hall, and believed that, in Kubie’s [13] words, “without the challenge of independent responsibility (personal, professional, and/or clinical), the duration of training tends to limit the emotional maturation, which is a vital component in the equipment of anyone who hopes to achieve wisdom.” They were also strongly influenced by McGlothlin’s [14] description of how experiential learning could be used in professional education and were particularly challenged by the famous pre-WWI Flexner report [15] that proposed extraordinary changes in medical education to avoid the extinction of clinical practice in medical education. Perceiving a similar challenge for U.S. engineering education in the Sputnik era, Professors J. L. Alford (Dec.) and M. M. Gilkeson created HMC’s Engineering Clinic. Over 1000 Engineering Clinic projects have been completed since that 1962 inception and nowadays some 25 Engineering Clinic projects are undertaken each academic year.

The current implementation of E4 was revived and restructured in 1992, and it was based to a significant degree on the idea that design is a thoughtful, cognitive activity that could be described and modeled [16-17]. While the underlying notion emerged from very early attempts to capture design processes in symbolic-language computer programs (i.e., artificial intelligence) [16], E4’s implementation was clearly directed at enabling students to experience design projects as open ended and ill structured [17]. This approach in effect built on the basic themes of Engineering Clinic [7-10] and brought them into the first year of an engineering student’s program. Some 150 design projects have since been completed for schools, hospitals, NGOs, etc.

As a result of HMC’s project-based Engineering curriculum, its graduates acquire a broad and inter-related set of skills that are distilled in the following set of capabilities:
  • apply technical knowledge in the solution of technical problems;
  • work with colleagues as a member of a goal-oriented team;
  • communicate processes and results, clearly, effectively, on time, within budget, and orally and in writing.

This is a decidedly modern view of the skills that engineering students ought to develop, encompassed in ABET goals [18] and notably characterized by the late John H. McMasters as the soft skills of engineering practice [19]. Yet for all their currency, homage must be paid to those innovators who started enabling students to experience and acquire these skills at Harvey Mudd College in the 1960s [7,12]. Those faculty members exhibited an entrepreneurial bent by advocating and initiating something that clearly seemed orthogonal to the “engineering science” currents that were sweeping U.S. engineering curricula in the wake of Sputnik. Engineering’s very first department chair, an HMC faculty member for 8 yr in the early 1960s, was also a strong advocate of a design and systems approach [20].

There are more than a few indicators that HMC’s innovators and their colleagues and heirs got it right. Among other accolades, HMC’s Engineering program has been recognized as follows: number 1 undergraduate engineering program in the nation by US News & World Report (2010); number 1 among private baccalaureate colleges for the percentage of graduates who earn PhDs in engineering and science, by the National Science Foundation (2008); the “best college—across all majors—by salary potential” by PayScale (2009); as one of best (top 60) engineering design programs (cited for Clinic and the Mudd Design Workshops) in the world by Business Week (2007); and, of course, by the NAE’s 2012 Gordon Prize.

The Engineering program has also been successful in producing engineering leaders, with its graduates holding prominent positions in industry, higher education, and other professional fields in a variety of industries, self-started companies, and faculty members across a broad array of colleges and universities. Interestingly enough, a school that has graduated only 2409 Engineering majors since its first class in 1961, has more than thirty faculty teaching engineering in the U.S.

It is worth noting that typical Engineering Clinic sponsors include companies, such as Amgen, Boeing, Hewlett-Packard, and Raytheon as well as smaller companies and federally funded agencies such as the Aerospace Corporation, the national laboratories, and the U.S. military. Nearly all Clinic projects cut across the boundaries of scientific and technical disciplines, and many call upon students to take marketing and other economic considerations into account. It is also interesting to note the list of sponsors and their corresponding projects has evolved substantially over the years. For example, projects in areas, such as chip design, software engineering, and biomedical engineering, simply did not exist when Clinic was founded. That evolution plays a major role in keeping both HMC’s faculty and students very much aware of what is really happening (and changing!) in the world.

HMC typically conducts about 27 paid Engineering Clinic projects each academic year (and another 15 in Mathematics, Computer Science, and Physics), and works at that so as to keep Clinic team sizes small. In fact, ideally, each team would have four members, two seniors over the whole year and two different juniors in each of the two semesters, and this is the primary determinant of the number of Engineering Clinic projects sought each academic year. Small teams are very desirable—if not absolutely essential—to ensure that each Clinic team member assumes responsibility and leadership for particular aspects. Personal growth is an inevitable byproduct of the Clinic experience.

But having said that, and notwithstanding HMC’s continuous record of having done more than 1000 industrially sponsored projects for almost 50 yr, these projects do not show up, magically, on their own. Indeed, it takes continuous, thoughtful, and at times stressful, hard work, led by a faculty member who upon election by Engineering colleagues serves as Director of Engineering Clinic. Furthermore, the annual fee currently paid by Clinic sponsors is $45,000. Engineering has been very fortunate in that six of their colleagues were willing to serve as full-time Engineering Clinic Directors (not including the occasional interim directors who served for a year while someone was on sabbatical) since 1970. One of these colleagues, Professor J. R. Phillips, advocated, recruited for and directed Engineering Clinic for 17 yr.

In a similar way, the first-year project experience has also been nurtured and grown over the years. In 1992, at a time when the conventional wisdom was that first-year students did not know enough to be able to do design, the E4 course was restructured to formally incorporate design methodology—as well as the “soft skills” and ethics—into the experience [17]. The course has been sustained over the years by two Engineering commitments: First, every faculty member in the department teaches E4 when they arrive—just as every Engineering faculty member advises (on average) 1.5 Engineering Clinic projects each academic year. Second, there has been a core of Engineering faculty that has led the evolution of this team-taught design class over the years. Two HMC faculties wrote a successful textbook [21] that has been adopted by more than 80 U.S. schools, selling almost 40,000 copies, with Spanish, Korean, and Portuguese translations, and the next editions currently in development. A studio approach [22] was introduced; and a realization—making and manufacturing—component has been added to E4.

Harvey Mudd’s Engineering Department maintains a continuous Assessment and Evaluation Program (AEP), with one full-time senior administrative staff person committed to that effort. The AEP starts by mapping Engineering’s Program Educational Objectives (PEO), of which there are five, Program Outcomes (PO) detailed in ABET Criterion 3 A-K; that mapping is displayed in Table 6 [4]. With that in place, each of Engineering’s required courses is then mapped into ABET’s POs, as shown in Table 7 [4]. Then a variety of indirect and direct measures are used to assess each course, and these measures can then be tracked to both Engineering’s education objectives and ABET’s desired outcomes. The indirect measures are a set of survey instruments, including: the Higher Education Research Institute College Student Survey; the National Survey of Student Engagement; HMC Engineering’s exit (senior) survey; the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium Alumni Survey; and Engineering’s own Clinic surveys of its Clinic Advisory Committee, its project liaisons, and Clinic students own teaching evaluations. The direct measures undertaken are a set of rubrics developed for Engineering’s required courses, typical samples of which are shown in Figs.  12. This comprehensive AEP allows Engineering to identify and focus on its strengths as well as on the opportunities for improvements. Drawing from Engineering’s most recent re-accreditation self-study [4], these and related results show that:
  • A survey of Clinic sponsors rated students as highly proficient in mathematics, science, and engineering: 3.38 on a scale of 1.0 to 4.0. Using a different survey, HMC faculty also rated students highly in this area: 4.0 on a scale of 1.0 to 5.0.
  • In design skills, Clinic sponsors scored students at 3.45 (max 4.0), while faculty scored them at 3.95 (max 5.0).
  • All members of student design teams participate in their formal oral presentations of their Clinic work and results. Sponsors gave students a 3.31 rating (max 4.0) in oral communication. Faculty scored students’ oral presentation skills between 3.0 and 3.5 (max 5.0) in all four areas of delivery, language, organization, and content.
  • One strength of bringing a team to bear on an engineering problem is the potential for interdisciplinary solutions. Sponsors scored students at 3.6 (max 4.0) in their interdisciplinary skills.
  • Taking a more general view of sponsor satisfaction, 60–70% of Clinic sponsors typically repeat their sponsorship in consecutive years.
  • HMC is one of the leading undergraduate-origin schools of eventual PhDs in the sciences and engineering. For engineering graduates, the ratio is typically 30–40%.

In addition, 79% of the students in HMC’s design offerings have shown the ability to design systems or components to meet desired needs. This level of achievement is also found when students are assessed on how they function on multidisciplinary teams and on their ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering programs. Perhaps, the most important contribution of HMC’s design emphasis to the engineering education of its students is demonstrated by the fact that 90% of students report that they feel a professional responsibility to engage in the ethical solution of complex and real-world problems.

Many of the “best practices” described above have not only been adapted, but they have been studied in a variety of contexts and institutions. Some of the beneficial effects of “practices,” such as first-year design courses, experiential learning, etc., have been summarized and reviewed elsewhere [23]. For the present purpose, partial results from two external reviews of HMC’s curriculum are now discussed. During the 2007–2008 academic year, engineering majors at 21 institutions were surveyed as one component of the NSF-funded Academic Pathways Study. The Academic Pathways of People Learning Engineering study surveyed engineering students at 21 schools across the U.S. with the aim of determining which factors influenced students’ persistence and growth in engineering [24]. It was found that HMC students exhibited greater engagement with faculty inside and outside of the classroom than students at the other schools; they were also more satisfied with their teachers and their levels of interaction with those faculty. Furthermore, HMC students reported learning about engineering practice from their school experiences in higher proportions than their peers at other schools. Engineering Clinic and E4 likely played a key role in this enhanced engagement and knowledge of practice.

In a similar vein and time frame, the NSF sponsored two studies [25] that, respectively, intended to (a) identify key features (e.g., curricular, pedagogical, organizational) of engineering programs that appear to be high quality and innovative and (b) provide a national benchmark of how undergraduate engineering programs are achieving the knowledge and attributes set out in the NAE’s The Engineer of 2020 [26]. Table 8 presents a summary of assessments of the skill levels reported by HMC seniors compared with aggregated values for seniors at 30 other engineering programs embedded in colleges and universities offering bachelor’s (only), master’s and doctoral degrees [27]. The engineering schools that offer master’s and doctoral degrees are by far the predominant granters of bachelor’s engineering degrees. Both in terms of statistical means and effect sizes, there are significant differences between the HMC and norm group means in, among others, design skills (more than one standard deviation) and communication skills (more than two standard deviations).

In 1997, HMC’s Department of Engineering instituted a biennial program of Mudd Design Workshops to bring together design educators, practitioners, and researchers to discuss issues in design and engineering education. The Workshops were intended in part to disseminate HMC’s engineering education practices to both the academic and professional practice communities. As they evolved under C. L. Dym’s leadership, the MDWs became a highly thought-of meeting place with important intellectual content on design pedagogy for engineering faculty. Registrants represent a wide range of U.S. engineering schools, including Arizona, ASU, BYU, CMU, Clemson, Cornell, George Mason, Georgia Tech, Idaho, MIT, Minnesota, Missouri, Northwestern, Olin, Penn State, Pittsburgh, RPI, Smith, Stanford, Tennessee, Tulane, USC, Utah State, Virginia Tech, Washington, and Yale. Overseas participants have also been plentiful, representing Aalborg, Budapest University for Technology and Economics, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Institutt for Informatikk (Oslo), KAIST, Maastricht, Singapore Polytechnic, Technion, TU Berlin, TU Delft, TU Lisbon, TU Denmark, Tel Aviv, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, and the new Singapore University of Design and Technology in 2011. Practitioners have come to the MDWs from Attenex, Boeing, IDEO, Lucent, Northrop, and Sapient.

Eight such MDWs have been held: computing futures of engineering design (1997, with 47 registrants); designing design education for the 21st century (1999, 57); social dimensions of engineering design (2001, 57); designing engineering education (2003, 44); learning and engineering design (2005, 63); design and engineering education in a flat world (2007, 53); sustaining sustainable design (2009, 57); and innovation and entrepreneurship (2011, 85).

Recent MDW keynote speakers include William A. Wulf, then-president of the National Academy of Engineering (2003), James W. Pellegrino, distinguished Professor of Psychology and Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago (2005), Chris Scolese, Chief Engineer of NASA (2007), and Malcolm Lewis (HMC ’67), President of Constructive Technologies Group (2009). Featured banquet speakers have included presidents of two emerging institutions who introduced their new endeavors to the MDW community: Richard K. Miller talked about Olin College in 1999, and Thomas L. Magnanti described the Singapore University of Technology and Design in 2011. Workshop audiences have generally included 50–60% repeat registrants from previous workshops, with the balance being “first timers.”

Further details about the Mudd Design Workshops are given at the websites [28-29].

Recognizing that, in the words of one of the authors, “The engineering curriculum is an artifact worthy of design,” HMC’s Engineering Department has learned and demonstrated more than a few ideas about the design of good engineering curricula:

Design should be both the cornerstone and the capstone—indeed, the backbone—of engineering curricula: One the notable features of the HMC’s Engineering paradigm is its consistent reinforcement of the idea that engineering is synonymous with design, that the practice of engineering is about designing devices, products, processes, and systems. It is not that all of our graduates go directly into the practice of engineering—indeed, many are sought after as graduate students at some of our finest research universities—but that they understand that engineers have a purpose: to design.

A broad, systems view is more important than depth: The HMC Engineering curriculum is clearly atypical in that it has few standard technical courses than almost all other ABET-accredited engineering programs in the U.S. Furthermore, in addition to its five basic engineering science classes, the Engineering curriculum has a strong systems thread. This thread provides the fabric that ties together the fundamentals in mechanics, transport, circuits, etc., because of the centrality of lumped element modeling to the design of any artifact involving physical and in the recognition that most interesting and significant engineering problems truly are interdisciplinary.

Content reinforcement is less important because school will not provide all of the answers, so students should be given an early start on self-learning and lifelong learning: Similarly, HMC students understand from their first Engineering course (E4), but throughout the curriculum, that formal classes will provide only the basic of the fundamental disciplines: Their success in completing projects, especially Clinic projects, depends on their own ability to learn and integrate knew knowledge, and to work with others to extend and enhance their team’s performance.

Experiential learning is central to students’ learning: This lesson seems rather obvious—today. It is worth remembering, however, that despite ample evidence (e.g., Ref. [30]) of the importance of experiential learning, most engineering (and other) courses in most US engineering schools are still taught as traditional lecture courses, and that it was a decades-long struggle to have this emerge as a desirable feature of engineering education.

First-year students are motivated by and can do design projects: The notion that first-year students do not know enough to do design has been around for a very long time, and was still felt by a significant number of engineering faculty and their departments even when HMC’s E4 was revitalized in 1992. First-year design experiences are now much more common. They serve as an excellent place where entering students can meet engineering faculty for the first time, and where these students learn that real engineering problems are not like those in their early mathematics and physics courses, that is, there are no simple formulas to apply and the (unique) answers cannot be found at the back of the book. In fact, first-year design classes as the place where students learn that, as HMC believes and McMasters has enunciated [19], “Beyond being theoretical carpenters, engineers must be able to synthesize and integrate systems or to design.”

Good educational programs succeed over the long term when the institution is committed, when the faculty and staff take ownership of the program, and when the leadership is thoughtful, optimistic, and sustained: There is little question that the success of the HMC Engineering program is, at its root, a living testament to the commitment made by three generations of HMC Engineering faculty and their HMC colleagues, as well as that made by the staff and the program’s students and alumni. Experiential classes generally require significantly greater resources and effort than do standard lecture courses, so institutional commitment is clearly essential. Furthermore, capstone experiences like HMC’s Engineering Clinic require, over the long haul, significant commitments by Clinic sponsors who feel that institutionally they are getting a worthwhile product and that individually (e.g., the liaisons who represent each sponsor and work with the Clinic teams and their advisors), alumni and alumnae have often benefitted from Clinic when they were themselves undergraduates. Still further, the faculty make a major commitment because they find, when they come to teach at HMC, that the program is generally unlike anything they have experienced in their own education—although there are now two HMC alumni on the Engineering faculty—and its success depends on their willingness to engage with students on a breadth of projects that are typically well outside the range of their narrow Ph.D. programs. Thus, again, the transcendent virtue is a commitment to both the ethos and the execution of the HMC Engineering paradigm.

It is certainly a source of pride that both E4 and Engineering Clinic have been replicated in varying forms across the U.S. engineering landscape. Indeed, there are many schools that have adapted some (or much) of or benchmarked against HMC’s approach to design, including Arizona State University (Mesa), Brigham Young University, Cambridge University, Kogakuin University (Tokyo), Northwestern University, Olin College, Rowan University, Singapore University of Technology and Design, and Smith College. But it ought to be recognized that, as noted by Engineering’s current department chair [30], HMC’s “Engineering curriculum is lean, yet delicately balanced and finely tuned, and its continued success requires continuous attention to detail.” It is no small thing that over 50 years the HMC has successfully managed the tension that results from balancing a strong and worthwhile tradition against the changes dictated not only by changes in society and technology, but also by a changing corps of faculty.

The authors are grateful for the recognition of the Gordon Prize, and for the invitation to share their experiences with the readers of the Journal of Mechanical Design. It is certainly gratifying to have one’s educational efforts recognized as innovative and replicated as “best practices.” But the authors also want to be clear: Beyond personal recognition, the Gordon Prize is also recognition of the long-sustained effort, energy and accomplishments of faculty, staff and students of the Department of Engineering at Harvey Mudd College. In this light, the authors want to recognize the contributions of the cofounder of Engineering Clinic, Professor Jack L. Alford (1920–2006; HMC 1959–1990), and of Professor T. T. Woodson (1910–2010; HMC 1969–1991), the first formally appointed Director of Engineering Clinic. Unfortunately, both of these innovators had died before they could be formally recognized in the Gordon Prize.

Copyright © 2012 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

A rubric for the technical memoranda required in E4: Introduction to Engineering Design and Manufacturing

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Figure 2

A rubric for the oral presentations required in E101: Advanced Engineering Systems


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Table 1
Some faculty and student enrollment numbers (averaged over the five academic years 2007–2012 and rounded) for Harvey Mudd College and its Engineering Department [4]
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Table 2
College-wide requirements of HMC curriculum: Common Core (43.5 credits) and Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts (33 credits)
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Table 3
HMC Engineering‘s curriculum: Engineering science strand
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Table 4
HMC Engineering‘s curriculum: Engineering systems strand
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Table 5
HMC Engineering‘s curriculum: Design and professional practice strand
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Table 6
Mapping HMC Engineering’s Program Educational Objectives (PEO) onto ABET’s Program Outcomes (PO) A-K as defined in ABET‘s Criterion 3. [4]
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Table 7
The mapping of Engineering’s required courses onto ABET’s Program Outcomes (PO) A-K as defined in ABET’s Criterion 3 [4]
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Table 8
Means, standard deviations, statistical significance (*, p < 0.05) and effect size (reported only when >0.30) for engineering skill levels reported by seniors at HMC and at 30 other institutions of various types [27]. The scale codings are (a) 1 = weak/none, 2 = fair, 3 = good, 4 = very good, 5 = excellent; and (b) 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neither agree nor disagree, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree. The effect size (c) is calculated as ((institution mean) − (norm group mean))/(norm group standard deviation) and reflects a measure of the difference in scores as normalized against variability


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