This is a Work in Progress. Students are taught how to model, write, and solve engineering
equations as part of their typical curriculum. But what is not covered is how to meld the
engineering design world with the economic domain needed to be successful in industry. One
author has supervised over 35 industrial design projects, and through his experience found that
what industry values most is a detailed Financial Operational Model with clear design and
economic parameters evaluated through sensitivity analysis. At Hampton University, engineering
economy has been taught to senior chemical engineering students in their first design course.
However, this fall a new course was delivered to all engineering students. The new engineering
economy class replaced a general education elective so no additional credit/course demand on
students was required. The inclusion of all engineering students came about after an
interdisciplinary team won a design competition in large part due to a senior chemical engineer’s
work on the financial operational model and her resulting sensitivity analysis for their product
design. Students from all engineering disciplines wanted to learn the skill she so aptly applied.
The twenty-four students are mostly African-American juniors and seniors from chemical,
electrical and computer engineering. The primary focus is on construction of a Financial
Operational Model in Excel for a process that includes engineering design equations (30-40
typically) combined with economics to build a processing plant that covers the range of indirect
and direct costs for both construction and operation of the facility. The assessments for the course
are weekly quizzes and a large take home exam. The course begins with students manipulating
and simulating an existing financial operational model by creating pie charts for capital and
operational expenditures and various sensitivity analyses. After this exposure, students begin the
process of building their own financial operational model. The challenge to the students is adding
economic elements for mechanical construction, power, circuit design and production, and coding
cost estimates for firmware and interface software. Our main objective is to acclimatize students
to solving a system of engineering equations across disciplines and linking them to a real economic
setup to evaluate the financial viability of a design project.
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