Teaching Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration in Design Projects with Engineering and Medical Students

Year: 2014
Editor: Erik Bohemia, Arthur Eger, Wouter Eggink, Ahmed Kovacevic, Brian Parkinson, Wessel Wits
Author: Stephan Fox (1), Vartan Kurtcuoglu (2), Mirko Meboldt (1)
Series: E&PDE
Institution: 1 Product Development Group, ETH Z
Section: Design Education Methods
Page(s): 036-041
ISBN: 978-1-904670-56-8


In order to meet the med-tech community’s high demand for innovation, the educational, cultural and communication gaps between medical doctors and design engineers need to be narrowed. Effective and efficient collaboration of members of the two disciplines is indispensable for successful exploitation of innovation in this area. While such cross-disciplinary collaboration is mostly learned on the job, students can already be made aware of the associated challenges in the academic environment. This requires teaching of cross-disciplinary communication, providing insight into the respective partner discipline and supporting the ability to work in culturally diverse project groups.
Here we present a case study of education in cross-disciplinary design based on a collaborative project between engineering and medical students. Several mixed teams are given a project assignment that is bound to produce cross-disciplinary communication challenges. The students are initially left to experience these to raise awareness of the negative effects on project performance if the challenges are not recognized and dealt with. Experienced medical doctors and engineers then coach the students in regular question and answer sessions, making them aware of the educational and cultural differences that produce the communication challenges in the first place.
We have seen high acceptance of this teaching approach among both student groups and have reached the main goal of raising awareness of the challenges associated with cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Keywords: Teaching, Cross-Disciplinary, Project work, Engineering, Design, Medical


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