Last updated: 5/4/99
The commitment of Japanese engineers and Japanese professors to new education technologies is among the highest in the world. This project has two distinct, but very closely related, objectives. The first concerns what should be taught in engineering design; the second, how it should be taught in future collaborative environments made possible by modern technology such as satellites and the internet.
Objective I: Use of Engineering Heuristics in Engineering Design and Design
This objective assumes the validity of a widely accepted definition of engineering design I developed and have investigated over the past 29 years. This definition states that engineering design is the use of engineering heuristics to cause the best change in a poorly understood situation within the available resources. An heuristic is anything that provides a plausible aid or direction in the solution of a problem but is in the final analysis unjustified, incapable of justification, and potentially fallible. A convenient, informal near-synonym for the heuristic is the engineering concept of a rule of thumb. This definition of engineering has resulted in many invited lectures world-wide and publications including the American Society for Engineering Education monograph, Definition of the Engineering Method, now in its fifth printing. This objective seeks to: (1) validate the use of engineering heuristics in Japan, (2) evaluate the acceptance and recognition of heuristics in that country, and (3) find examples of engineering heuristics used in Japan that are not used in the United States.
Objective II: Distributive Decision Making over the Internet
Many recent observers predict that in the future student learning, collaborative research, and engineering design will not be confined to individuals in the same geographical area. Instead, emerging technologies such as the internet and satellite delivery systems will allow students access to the best professors irrespective of were they live, allow researchers world-wide to contribute to a single research project, and allow engineers from many countries to participate in the design of large international engineering efforts. Random people making random comments over the internet will not, however, contribute to effective education, research, or engineering design. This second objective is an extension of 14 pilot studies I have conducted over the past four years aimed at exploring the best way to force a consensus of people over the internet using the Nominal Group Theory. In the largest of these, twenty-six computer sites, in twenty states, and including approximately 200 people throughout the United States were interconnected to produce a single group decision.
These objectives will be accomplished through discussions, interviews, and seminars with Japanese professors, engineers, and engineering students. In the case of the second objective, these discussions will be augmented by creating international connections similar to the previous pilot studies. This research requires a field study in Japan to accurately evaluate the Japanese approach to engineering design and the possibility of international collaboration in teaching, research, and design over the internet.
(A complete description of the previous work, published articles in PDF and HTML formats, and lists of participants with photographs is available.)
Last updated: 5/4/99