Industrial engineers receive funding to enhance engineering education

Pamela Krewson Wertz
June 30, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A team of nine industrial engineers is working to identify a set of products that bundle goods and services, and develop rich case studies, that will facilitate an integrated product-based approach to learning.

The researchers, faculty in the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, were awarded $126,952 by the Leonhard Center at Penn State for their proposal titled “Product-Based Learning: Bundling Goods and Services.”

“Our strategy is to redesign our approach to the organization and delivery of core courses in the industrial engineering curriculum so that students are better prepared to understand, discover and apply engineering solutions to problems with integrated systems thinking,” said Janis Terpenny, professor of industrial engineering and head of the Marcus department. “Learning in the context of authentic problems will provide our graduates with a more comprehensive understanding of industrial engineering concepts and arm them with the knowledge and insight to improve the efficient delivery of goods and services for our nation.”

The Marcus department, like other engineering departments at Penn State, welcomes its incoming undergraduates as juniors and has just two years to deliver the entirety of industrial engineering concepts, theories and hands-on applications across four key areas of the curriculum: human factors, manufacturing, operations research and service engineering.

Students currently tend to immerse themselves in each course individually, rather than gain a more rounded knowledge of the industrial engineering learning base. This grant provides the faculty with an opportunity to deliver more universal materials that span across the four curricular areas.

The team is working to develop products that will “serve as the glue” between focus areas and will enable students to understand the connectedness and complementary nature of these core industrial and manufacturing engineering areas.

The researchers likened the development of new products to Apple’s development of a wide range of services for its iPhone, including telephone capabilities, web access, audio visual content, calendars, health monitors, GPS, banking and so on.

“Like Apple’s comprehensive and connected applications, these products approach industrial engineering education from a systems perspective and reflect on the global dimensions of product design, manufacturing and associated services,” said Amine Lehtihet, professor of industrial engineering and a member of the research team. “The products will also reflect the shared relationship between manufactured goods and consumer services.”

The use of real product-based problems in this two-year project will provide context and promote a common theme throughout the core courses in the curriculum, regardless of the content area, through the development of a product-based learning and content delivery system.

It is a curricular model that the team hopes industrial engineering departments at other institutions might also adopt.

“Our vision is curricular reform that will break down the proverbial silo-style learning by using the complex products developed as the essential foundation for integrating and synthesizing industrial engineering methodologies for our students,” said Catherine Harmonosky, associate professor and one of the collaborators on the project. “We believe this integration across core courses in our curriculum is key for students’ future problem-solving abilities. It will also foster collaboration and synergy among faculty members who will work together in cross-area teams to develop specific curricular content.”

In addition to Terpenny, Lehtihet and Harmonosky, the collaborators on the project are: Andris Freivalds, professor of industrial engineering; Elena Joshi, lecturer in industrial engineering; Scarlett Miller, assistant professor of engineering design and industrial engineering; Vittal Prabhu, professor of industrial engineering; Conrad Tucker, assistant professor of engineering design and industrial engineering; and Jose Ventura, professor of industrial engineering. 

  • Catherine Harmonosky

    Catherine Harmonosky, associate professor and one of the researchers on the project.

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • El-Amine Lehtihet

    El-Amine Lehtihet, professor and a collaborator on the project.

    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated April 19, 2017