Product: Management and Development
Product: Management and Development
Research Article

Utilizing transdisciplinary project-based learning in undergraduate engineering education

Lacey M. Davis; Barrett S. Caldwell

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Transdisciplinary project-based learning is an opportunity for undergraduate engineering students to acquire valuable skills in translating individual knowledge to other disciplines and interacting with non-academic stakeholders. In the authors’ project-based education experience, these skills have been developed in both course-based and co-curricular learning contexts. A necessary foundation for implementing transdisciplinary projects in education includes introducing students to constructive collaboration across engineering disciplines and with stakeholders, consumers, and users. Furthermore, students must engage problem-solving techniques that account for emergent system behaviors during project development. Emergent behaviors are inherent to complex real-world problems. Engineering students benefit from the opportunity to respond to evolving project requirements and goals in low-risk, academic settings prior to enduring these challenges at the career level. This active learning approach can increase student agency and diversity as students work in multi-disciplinary teams on relevant problems, drawing from previous experiences. Additionally, students learn the value of qualitative data for characterizing priorities of stakeholders, consumers, and users that are often unavailable from quantitative data. Students participating in transdisciplinary project-based learning gain agency and develop a skillset for investigating the cross disciplinary implications and sociotechnical contexts of real world problems, as well as integrating quantitative engineering analyses with qualitative stakeholder needs.


engineering education, project-based learning, collaborative design decisions, managing emergent behavior, understanding stakeholder and user needs


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