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Words or Images: Insights on How Engineering Students and Engineers Communicate in Practice

[+] Author Affiliations
Diana Bairaktarova

University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK

Mary Pilotte

Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

Paper No. DETC2014-35209, pp. V003T04A012; 5 pages
  • ASME 2014 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 3: 16th International Conference on Advanced Vehicle Technologies; 11th International Conference on Design Education; 7th Frontiers in Biomedical Devices
  • Buffalo, New York, USA, August 17–20, 2014
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4634-6
  • Copyright © 2014 by ASME


This paper examines the use of language (text and verbal communication) across school and work settings. The participants of the study are from two distinct pools — 380 first-year engineering students and 355 industry professionals. To test the study predictions and interpret the results the individual data sets from both studies were reviewed and analyzed. Data suggests that for the professional engineering population, face to face communication was the preferred communication mode for sharing engineering evaluation, communicating difficult concepts, and describing their work product. Email and file sharing were also utilized communication options, but to a lesser extent. Data from students facing a simulated professional assignment (produce a fabrication instruction for assembling a mechanical object) indicated that 94% of the students’ chose to use language to produce fabrication instructions, compared to only 6% of students who used another tool of engineering representation in the form of sketches. Data investigation and outcomes are discussed in terms of prevalence and importance of language in engineering education.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME



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