Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Both popular press and academic journals have reported increasing trends in design failures attributed to engineering errors, poor planning and inadequate design decisions as demonstrated by mission failures, product failures and increasing manufacturing and support costs ((McMasters & Matsch, 1996; Oberg, 2000; Lowery, 1998; Hayes & Wheelwright, 1984; Schlager, 1994; Scott, 1999, 1999a, 1999b). The authors of the articles agree that graduating engineers are competent at formulaic analysis, but they suggest a perceived lack of fundamental skills necessary for design activities. This lack of skills is described in broad terms but the descriptions lack specific metrics for assessing the possession of these abilities by matriculating engineering students. This study identified the primary skills perceived as necessary for effective design of complex systems by industry practitioners and compared them to the abilities academic researchers perceive are required by practitioners. The skills and abilities were then compared to observed behaviors of engineering students in multiple sessions of a senior aerospace engineering design course at Purdue University. The study did not consider topics such as educational theory and did not consider soft skills such as human resources or communications. The skills were defined based on an analysis and of content and meaning from the three sources, practitioners, educators, and students, and validated using a triangulation methodology. The study investigated the evolution of engineering education as it impacted current academic exposure and its relationship to the specific skills industrial representatives suggest have been lost. It was concluded there were differences in the perceptions of each cohort group.

Included in

Engineering Commons