Towards An Integrated Multidisciplinary Engineering and Business Learning Environment with Emphasis on Product Realization Processes


Robert J. Simoneau, Ph.D., P.E.

Director, School of Engineering

    & Engineering Technology

Penn State Erie

The Behrend College

Phone:  (814) 898-6153

FAX:     (814) 898-6125



Definition of the Program’s Purpose:


Purpose:  The purpose of the proposed program is to establish and validate a working model for an integrated multidisciplinary undergraduate engineering and business learning environment. This model would be implemented within Penn State Erie’s Schools of Engineering & Engineering Technology and Business.


Based on what is learned from the model a second purpose is to establish links between engineering and business product realization processes.


Motivation:  The base from which this proposed effort would be launched is the solid undergraduate engineering and business education programs in the United States.  It is important to recognize that the quality of engineering and business education programs in the U.S. is second to none.  The best evidence of this is the large number of foreign nationals who enroll in U.S. engineering and business programs every year.  It is the purpose of this proposal to add a new dimension to these already strong models; a dimension that we believe responds to needs expressed by employers of engineering and business graduates.


Engineering students are very good technically.  They are quite capable in solving technical problems based on the fundamental principles of their disciplines.  They are also quite proficient at producing designs that meet technical needs.  This truly is the backbone of engineering.  It is the solid foundation, which no one proposes changing.


However, graduates of engineering programs typically do not have a comprehensive view of what is needed to bring a product from concept to full realization, including its impact on the economy and the environment. The calls for enhancing engineering education in recent years, such as the ABET Engineering Criteria 2000[1] and the ASME Product Realization Process Study[2], recognize this missing piece of education. Furthermore, and this is the focus of the proposal, most engineering graduates have little understanding of the business environment which drives many engineering related decisions. In general, the same holds true for the understanding of engineering principles and constraints by business graduates.  The proposed effort is directed at this weakness.


Goal:  The goal of the proposed program is not to turn engineers into businesspersons, nor businesspersons into engineers.  The goal is to produce engineering and business graduates who have a strong understanding of and ability to function in a multidisciplinary business/engineering environment and on multidisciplinary teams.  We are seeking engineering graduates who can understand and articulate the business model, and business graduates who understand engineering design parameters.


Achievement of the goal would be measured in several ways.  First, a new curriculum model would be developed and submitted for University approval.  The model would be sustained and supported in the curriculum by establishing a cadre of faculty trained and committed to the program.  Students would be given the opportunity and encouraged to avail themselves of the courses.  Formal assessment and continuous quality improvement methods would be put in place.


[1] The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has established new accreditation criteria, Engineering Criteria 2000, which will be fully implemented in the year 2001, and which are outcome based criteria.  While still retaining strong technical requirements, Criteria 2000 has incorporated significant emphasis on working skills, such as communications and multi-disciplinary teaming.

[2] In December 1995 the American Society of Mechanical Engineers International (ASME) issued a report entitled, “Integrating the Product Realization Process (PRP) into the Undergraduate Curriculum.”  This study, based on strong industry (including GE) and academic input, identified the top twenty skills needed by graduating engineers to bring products from concept to realization.