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New master's program to aid design engineers' preparation

By Liz Crumbley

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 27 - April 11, 1996

In August, the Virginia Tech College of Engineering will launch a master's-degree program aimed at better preparing engineers to tackle the complex process of design in industry.

The 12-month practice-oriented master's program, leading to the master of engineering degree with an emphasis on design, is a multi-disciplinary program that will offer a broad exposure to contemporary product development methods, said Norman Eiss, a professor of mechanical engineering and one of the program's developers.

In addition to taking courses in a specific engineering field, students will study modern engineering design practices and professional engineering issues, such as product liability and environmental issues.

Students also will choose elective courses from a variety of disciplines, including economics, management science, marketing, business law, technology issues, mathematics, systems engineering, quality control, human-factors engineering, and scientific data analysis.

A key feature of the degree program will be interdisciplinary team design projects developed jointly with industry sponsors. "We plan to have industry representatives participate in planning and in discussions that will help the students learn even more about the realities of industrial design," Eiss said.

One concept that will be emphasized is concurrent engineering, which Eiss said is "the consideration of manufacturing, shipping, maintenance, and disposal of a product at the beginning of the design process. This procedure reduces the amount of re-design and speeds up the realization of the product." An engineer who considers manufacturing options during design can make decisions that will facilitate the making of the product, he noted.

In traditional master's programs, students study one discipline, such as aerospace engineering, and work on design projects in that field with other aerospace engineers. In the new program, Eiss said, engineers from several disciplines will work together on a project and pool their talents in aerodynamics, aero-structures, materials, manufacturing techniques, and mechanical components.

Virginia Tech faculty members from a spectrum of disciplines have developed the practice-oriented program: aerospace and ocean engineering (AOE), engineering science and mechanics (ESM), industrial and systems engineering (ISE), materials science and engineering (MSE), and mechanical engineering (ME).

The university is among the leaders in developing this type of program, Eiss said. A similar master's program is in place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where engineering design is combined with business administration.

Students who enroll in the Tech program must have undergraduate degrees in engineering, Eiss said. "We hope to attract students who have had some cooperative education or undergraduate design project experience."

For more information about the Practice-Oriented Master's Program, prospective students and industrial sponsors should contact any of the following faculty members: AOE, William Mason, 1-6740; ESM, Ronald Landgraff, 1-3249; ISE, William Sullivan, 1-6659; ME, Norman Eiss, 1-7192; or MSE, Robert Hendricks, 1-6917.