Integrating Multidisciplinary Engineering Projects with English on a Study Abroad Program

Integrating Multidisciplinary Engineering Projects with English on a Study Abroad Program

A. Weerakoon, N. Dunbar, J. Findlay (2014).  Integrating Multidisciplinary Engineering Projects with English on a Study Abroad Program. 12.

Study abroad programs in tertiary education are becoming more accepted as globally relevant education experiences. They provide an opportunity for cultural interaction and contact with alternative traditions without delaying educational progress. However, limited ability in a language is still seen as a barrier to learning technical subjects abroad. This paper presents an experiential learning project that integrates the teaching of mechanical engineering principles and English language communication skills. It is part of a study abroad program designed for Japanese engineering students from mechanical, electrical and IT disciplines. Currently this project is in its third year of development. A focal feature has been incorporating key concepts of sustainability, local environment, innovation, improvisation and resource management, whilst ensuring that engineering principles match as closely as possible those being taught in the corresponding institution in Japan.

In the current year we are implementing two projects as follows: I. Conceive, design, implement and test a structure within specified constraints which can endure the strongest force under a compressive stress. This project is designed to develop group synergy, encourage critical evaluation of potential alternative solutions and facilitate group decision making processes. II. The main project consists of designing, implementing, and operating a complete wind turbine assembly to produce a minimum of 5 watts of electrical energy. This encompasses application of engineering principles and insights into conceiving, modelling and scaling appropriate solutions, before constructing and then operating the prototype. Coordination with other courses on the study abroad program ensures the projects also incorporate CAD and electrical engineering processes where appropriate, and that students can discuss and present their projects in English.

The key factors that contribute to the success of these projects are a. Ensuring project outlines and assessments are clear and consistent, and teaching is focused primarily on meeting the project outcomes b. Creating an activity and inquiry-based learning environment to supplement the limited English language skills in the early stages c. Facilitating team building, project management and independent learning skills d. Ensuring student engagement through allocating tasks based on discipline strength, involving students in decision making processes, and encouraging collective responsibility. e. Coordinating between courses to ensure sufficient explanation and reinforcement of concepts across the curriculum f. Integrating English communication skills, including oral explanation, presentation skills and report writing into each stage of the projects. g. Combining engineering and English assessments to enhance authenticity and reduce student burden

Key Words: activity-based teaching, experiential project-based learning, intercultural communication skills, multi-disciplinary integration, study abroad

Proceedings of the 10th International CDIO Conference, Barcelona, Spain, June 15-19 2014

Authors (New): 
Avinda Weerakoon
Nathan Dunbar
John Findlay
Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand
Activity-based teaching
Project-Based Learning
intercultural communication skills
multidisciplinary integration
study abroad
CDIO Standard 3
CDIO Standard 5
CDIO Standard 7
CDIO Standard 8
CDIO Standard 11
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