Volume 3, Number 2, Spring 2003 


Jerome Tapper and Walter Buchanan
Northeastern University

Ali Kashef
University of Northern Iowa 

Hamid Khan
Northern Kentucky University


 Innovative ways in which these partnerships are being used in Engineering Technology programs will be summarized. Descriptions of on-going successful partnered relationships and how industry and education will co-exist and complement each other in the coming years will be presented. How individual partnerships have made educational institutions stronger and more viable as true engineering technology entities will be described. Anecdotal evidence of ongoing established partnerships will be presented to strengthen the argument for future success in this area.


To have application driven engineering technology programs, collaboration with industry is essential in designing curricula and then evaluating the results for continuous improvement. Program-specific industrial advisory committees are essential to make this process work. An example will be explored to see how this process is used in cutting-edge applications that meet the needs of industry.

Feedback is very important to ensure that laboratories developed in academia will teach the sorts of skills that are important in industry. Data collection and surveys of industry are very important in this process. An example of how this method is used to develop a state-of-the-art industrial controls laboratory will be explored.

Solving current problems in industry can develop some valuable learning experiences. These problems can be best when they come at the request of industry. Simulation of an industrial problem is one way to arrive at a solution. An example will be analyzed that explores an industrial situation and then comes up with a viable solution.

Creating virtual classrooms through inter-university partnerships with industry can also save academic program resources. This can be valuable with program teams must design and manufacture new products when the team members are not located at the same place. An example will be shown where two universities created such a virtual classroom.


As our global community increases its utilization of new technologies in the distribution and acquisition of knowledge and information, new paradigms in engineering and technology emerge. Engineering technology education’s traditional standards, methods and educational models must be reassessed in order to proactively address future needs in the training of engineers and technologists.

A successful engineering education model must include and initiate new and diverse methods in order to effectively determine and address the current and forthcoming needs in the training of engineers and technologists. Collaboration of industry with educators is now essential in curriculum design, program evaluation, and improvement.

Program-specific industrial advisory boards are a vital part of university engineering technology programs. They add the critical element of real-world application as they provide a wealth of knowledge in the determination of a program’s development as universities continue their efforts to fulfill the constantly shifting needs of industry.

At the University of Central Florida new approaches in engineering and technology education are currently being redefined and implemented. The changes being made in various aspects of engineering technology education include involvement of a program-specific industrial advisory board in developing course content and curriculum, multimedia learning environments, teaching methods, classroom and laboratory setup. [1]


As the new ABET accreditation process evolves, Engineering Technology programs are scurrying to determine the most efficient methods of providing information that will best represent a program’s ability to track and correct weak links that may exist in their programs. Among these are the classical feedback techniques. Feedback schemes have been around for years, but it is only now that these techniques are being taken seriously in the forefront of education as a tool for program re-evaluation.

An example of the process that has been used at Northeastern University’s School of Engineering Technology in helping to create a state-of-the-art industrial control systems program is presented. Data along with methodology is shared with the reader in an effort to inspire the reader to create an information feedback system of his/her own. [2]

During the summer of 1998, in an effort to modernize and re-focus the electrical engineering technology program at Northeastern University’s School of Engineering Technology, a new and innovative program was created.  The idea behind this new program was the establishment of an alliance with industrial partners in an effort to better align academic and industrial goals.  In doing so, an industrial control systems program was established.  With the help of industry partners such as Siemens Corporation, Cutler-Hammer Corporation, and a host of smaller independently owned industry related companies, the industrial control systems program was born.  With the advent of this new curriculum concept, a small pilot laboratory was created to determine the viability of this program. Using classical feedback theory and in some sense the “Engineering Design Process” itself, this pilot program was evaluated and the results of which were utilized to make appropriate changes via student evaluation data.  Such a basic system of evaluation is pictured in Figure 1.


FIGURE 1: Classical Feedback Configuration Format


The elements of this feedback system are:

Based on the actual student evaluations of the existing program, it was determined that a correction was needed to the program components in the form of a new facility. It was determined through these student evaluations that the existing “pilot” facility was too small to appropriately serve the needs of the students and at the same time maintain a state-of-the-art laboratory that would meet the goals of the program.  Based on this, construction was initiated at the end of 2000 on a new 1000 sq.-ft. laboratory facility.  This new facility currently resides at 5 Hayden Hall at Northeastern University.

Feedback, both positive and negative, is a good thing. It has been said that we cannot know where we are going if we do not know where we have been.  A survey, conducted by the School of Engineering Technology at Northeastern University, greatly aided in the search for the elements necessary to build an ICS curriculum that will provide students the necessary tools to be productive and “valuable” engineering technologists in the workplace.  Although the survey was somewhat long and tedious, it has helped to correct many existing problems inherent in the current program.  There is no clear-cut approach to creating and maintaining a quality ICS program, but one thing is clear-industry opinions and the implementation of “feedback” mechanisms can go a long way in creating a more formidable curriculum.  Constructive criticism is, and will always be, needed to improve curricula.  Without such feedback, narrow minded and limited curricula will result. The lesson to be learned here is to “always listen” to the experienced experts – in this case, professional industry representatives.


At the request of a business some graduate students were assigned a project to solve a business problem. Simulation is one technique, which can be employed to analyze business situations and effectively solve business productivity problems. Simulation is particularly employed to queuing situations, such as customer queuing in a shop, or parts waiting to go through a machine for processing. This business project focuses on analyzing the time spent by customers in a busy drive through queue of a fast food outlet adjacent to an urban university. The research involved first collecting data, which included customer inter-arrival times, customer ordering time, and service times. This data was then used to build a model of how the system would behave in a steady state at peak time to benefit management decisions. The GPSS/H simulation software package was used to build the model as well as analyze the data.

The analysis was submitted to the management as a comprehensive student report. The management showed interest in using this report for increasing productivity by effective utilization of personnel and modernization of their system. The project is one example of a Business-Industry partnership for reciprocity. The business gains from expert research opinion and university gains by practical applications of student learning by using projects and programs. This project also illustrates the practical benefits of system simulation as an effective tool for strategic planning of resources, and for increasing productivity, and as an aid to management decision-making. [3]

The body of knowledge about waiting lines and queuing theory is important for understanding operations within a company and is an invaluable tool for the operations manager and hence must be taught in the industrial engineering, and industrial engineering technology, operations engineering, and manufacturing engineering technology programs as well as in engineering technology graduate courses.  Waiting lines may be envisioned in the form of cars waiting for repair at a repair shop or copying jobs waiting to be completed at a print shop, or vacationers waiting to enter the ride at the Disney World.  The importance of the situation can be just felt when one mentally analyzes a busy supermarket, highway congestion, tollbooth tension, doctor's office, computer systems overload, telephone company performance, Bank tellers’ service effectiveness, the harbor full of ships, the airline arrivals and departures in a busy airport.  Waiting lines models are useful in both manufacturing and service areas.  Analysis of queues in terms of waiting line length, average waiting time, and other factors help us to understand modern service systems. It is the effectiveness of simulation that can predict the overall operational efficiency of a system without actually running it destructively (non-destructive evaluation). Insofar as the scholarly importance is concerned the students must understand the pattern of waiting lines of a system. The “synthesis” allows a student to be practical engineer decision making.

In this situation some students were asked to examine some of the following operations of a business:

  1. Arrivals as inputs to the system  
  2. Queue discipline of the system
  3. and the service behavior of the service facility

The arrival characteristics that were studied consisted of arrival population data. The idea was to figure out the mathematical model for the pattern of arrivals. This model is crucial to the effectiveness of the simulation and its efficacy in duplicating the actual performance of the business. The modeled queuing system consistently replicated the behavior of the transactions.

Effectiveness of the actual simulation of real-life business was expected to do the following.

In order for the student to provide a reasonable model for simulation of the business to which he was deputed, the student was asked if to do the following.

These basic tests are composed in Monte Carlo simulation, which is the building block of GPSS/H simulation package. For expedient learning of simulation the student was advised to select commercial software, which could have been used for actual simulation. The software that were examined were AutoMod, FlexSim, and GPSS H.  Eventually because of cost constraints student version of the GPSS H was preferred over a real 3-D simulation of AutoMod and FlexSim.

The results of the study showed the prediction of customer behavior. The report was used by management to redesign and expand facility and provide for more personnel for satisfying customer.


Challenges of rapidly changing technology in the twenty-first century and continuing university budget problems are creating unique opportunities for academe-industry collaboration to benefit both sectors.  Described herein is a partnership between two universities and an industry to create a virtual classroom to prepare engineering students for challenges of in the twenty-first century.

Engineering technology students from University of Memphis and University of Northern Iowa used ipTeam suite software provided by Next Prise, Incorporated, to create a virtual environment to collaborate on joint projects.  Multi-disciplinary student teams from two universities defined problems, selected product concepts, and performed the marketing, design, prototyping, and payback analysis on new products. This software is widely used by leading US companies, but is relatively new to academia. Discussed is software used in creating an inter-university virtual classroom. [4]

IpTeamSuite retained data retention infrastructure for virtual teams with its virtual project areas, which contained document vaults, virtual notebooks, and scheduler and consensus builder.  IpTeamSuite used commercially secure servers, which worked with firewalls to provide security for the virtual team and its information products.  Each virtual team member is authenticated (with a name and password) before information is accessed.  Since the server can be accessed across the World Wide Web with a web browser, virtual teams can be formed across institutions that are located anywhere in the world. 

Due to the efforts of our industrial consultants, Nexprise had agreed to license ipTeamSuite software to both universities and to post the software on the Nexprise server.  Most of the communication between the universities was completed by having the teams store (upload) files and retrieve (download) files to/from the notebook and document vault.  Since some of the students and faculty were not familiar with ipTeamSuite, the consultants provided training to both universities.     The companies interacted by getting together either as a co-located team (i.e., face-to-face at the same place) or by using the telephone, FAX machines, e-mail, chat rooms on the internet, and by using ipTeamSuite software.  IpTeamSuite software allowed the teams to communicate in both a synchronous and asynchronous mode.  Synchronous work occurred when team members were working together to create the same new information at the same time.  Asynchronous work occurred when the team members worked on different information or work at different times (for the information that the team is producing).  The software allowed the team members to share and modify information, sketches and CAD drawings across the team.  It allowed the team members to revise files and team presentations, as they are refined throughout the life of the product.  These features enabled virtual teams to work together and simultaneously create new products.

Feedback from the students has indicated that the experiential learning from their team projects has been one of the most valuable experiences gained from the courses.  As a result, the instructors will place more emphasis on group problem solving and team development.


There are many ways industry can be used to help improve an academic program and aid in its continuous improvement process. This article has discussed a few of them.  One thing that stands out, however, is that the effective use of the program’s industrial advisory committee is essential. Whether it is using industrial partners to help develop state-of-the-art curricula, getting feedback to improve and develop state-of-the-art laboratories, or working with industry to solve current industrial problems, all of these methods are effective in improving one’s program and ensuring that it is the practical hand-on curriculum that engineering technology programs are known for.

Partnerships with industry also have financial benefits since they can result in equipment donations, or even grants, as well as creating virtual classrooms to defray the very expensive costs of distance education, a form of pedagogy that is becoming increasingly popular in our technology savvy and currently mobile lifestyle. With the continuing decease in state support in public schools, and the increasing difficulty in fundraising in both public and private institutions, the bottom line is more and more something that higher education has to deal with in the current economic environment.


[1]  Morse, L., Motlagh, B., and Selter, “Preparing Future Engineering Technologists: A Collaboration of Education and Industry,” Proceedings 2003 ASEE Conference for Industry and Education Collaboration, pp. 44103-05, Tucson, Arizona, January 2003.

[2]  Tapper, J. and Buchanan, W.W., "Applying the Tools of the Trade in Assisting with Program Re-evaluation," Proceedings 2003 ASEE Conference for Industry and Education Collaboration, pp. 44106-14, Tucson, Arizona, January 2003.

[3]  Khan, H. and Bere, M., "Waiting Lines: System Simulation Fosters Company Performance," Proceedings 2003 ASEE Conference for Industry and Education Collaboration, pp. 44115-22, Tucson, Arizona, January 2003.

[4]  Rajai, M., Kashef, A. E., and Day, R., “Creating Virtual Classroom Through Inter-University Partnership with Industry,” Proceedings 2003 ASEE Conference for Industry and Education Collaboration, pp. 44123-26, Tucson, Arizona, January 2003.