University as a Laboratory: Exploring how engineering education can support industrial needs
Editor: Ekströmer, Philip; Schütte, Simon and Ölvander, Johan
Author: Henriksson, Fredrik; Johansen, Kerstin; Wilhelmsson, Malin
Institution: Linköping University
Universities have two major tasks; generating knowledge through research and educating students for academia, the public sector and the industry. In this paper, the authors explore how engineering education can support industrial needs on two fronts: creating a case study platform for research and preparing graduating engineering students to become more capable engineers when beginning their working life in industry, by applying the ""University as a laboratory"" concept. ""University as a laboratory"", as coined by Henriksson (2017), means that research-based case study projects are brought into educational courses where students are assigned to work as engineering designers, and researchers can observe problem solving patterns and evaluate different methodologies (also presented by Henriksson and Johansen (2016)). Though the concept have been presented earlier (Henriksson and Johansen 2016, Henriksson 2017), a more thorough evaluation is in order to further understand the effects of integrating research and education in the ""University as a laboratory"" concept. This is done through the performance and evaluation of a research-based engineering design education project in collaboration with automotive industrial partners; a project on lightweight and sustainable product and production development. The study evaluates three aspects of the project; the researchers' view, the teachers' view and the students' view. Data on all three aspects has been gathered through group interviews, observations and written assignments during the project, as well as interviews with participating students one year after the end of the project and workshops with researchers and teachers involved in the project. Analysis has been done on a qualitative basis, to investigate whether case projects are suitable for deep understanding in engineering fields and whether project courses are suitable to test different approaches of integrated product and production development.