CROSS-DISCIPLINARITY WITHIN ENGINEERING

DS 83: Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE16), Design Education: Collaboration and Cross-Disciplinarity, Aalborg, Denmark, 8th-9th September 2016

Year: 2016
Editor: Erik Bohemia, Ahmed Kovacevic, Lyndon Buck, Christian Tollestrup, Kaare Eriksen, Nis Ovesen
Author: Ledsome, Colin
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Vice-Chairman, IED
Section: Preparing Students for Cross-dsciplinarity
Page(s): 511-515
ISBN: 978-1-904670-62-9

Abstract

From the outside, engineering is often thought of as a single field, but on the inside this is far from the
case. In the UK, there are currently 35 professional bodies registered with the Engineering Council.
These have grown up over the last two centuries, often co-operating but each defensive of what they
see as their field of expertise. Even today those fields can be jealously guarded and cross-discipline
demarcation can occasionally get in the way of coherent design work. Engineers from one field may
not understand the requirements of others. Even the language used in one area can be confusing in
others.
Interfaces between different technologies can be overly constraining. If an opportunity to use a
component for more than one function is proposed, the negotiations can be prolonged. When the
engineering team has to consider non-technological factors, with product designers and others, things
can get even more complex. This paper examines those historic divisions and asks if they are still
valid and how barriers to collaboration, within and beyond engineering, can be broken down with a
more flexible approach. Engineers from different backgrounds need to work together and understand
each other’s priorities. This has implications for academia and the whole design profession.

Keywords: Cross-disciplinarity, professional bodies, engineering course development.

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