Inter-disciplinary Teams

            This is the first semester of the Engineering for Peoples and Markets Program at Fresno State. The program consists of two teams. Each team consists of two or three engineer majors (computer and electrical), an entrepreneurship major, and an anthropology major. The purpose of our team is to work together on the creation, design, and marketability of a piece of technology created by the engineers for their senior projects. It has been interesting discovering each of our roles within this project, and the experience of working with people trained in different fields has been valuable.  There have definitely been some learning hurdles for me, and things I’m still working on. Some things that I initially saw as hurdles, I’m beginning to realize might be more common than I thought.

            Our project is very dependent on the curriculum of the engineer majors because this is their senior project and they must create a working prototype by the end of the school year in order to graduate. I originally saw this as an obstacle that would only exist in a college program like this one. Due to the attachment of the project to their pending graduation, I felt like the engineers were very cautious, sometimes only focusing on simply getting a very basic working apparatus, rather than a prototype that was more representative of our team’s research and design recommendations. Everything seemed to be contingent on “if we end up commercializing it”, rather than “let’s give this a try”. Their apprehensions are certainly understandable!

Now, as I think about the situation in a different light, I’m thinking this may be a lot closer to what I may experience in the future when working in consultation with other people or companies. Time and resources are always a major concern. Rather than seeing this as an obstacle needing to be removed, I see it as a learning challenge on my part on how to create a good communicative environment with the team and try to represent my research and recommendations in ways that will also include possible solutions on how to address time sensitivity and limited resources. I certainly do not have an answer to this, but it is a constant learning experience for me.

I tried researching “inter-disciplinary teams” online to find out examples of how other teams are working together, at other colleges and within business and organizations. The only articles I could find were regarding inter-disciplinary teams working together within the medical field. I’m wondering if there are other resources where I can find articles relating to this, and examples of how similar programs are operating at other universities.

One thought on “Inter-disciplinary Teams

  1. Hi Jennifer:

    I appreciate your comments on team-based work. I currently work for a design firm and we are constantly working in teams while conducting research (technologists, designers, and myself an anthropologist). I have yet to read much about team-based research but one book that I have read is James Beebe’s “Rapid Assessment Process.” His main premise is that there must be multidisciplinary teams conducting a rapid ethnographic assessment to ensure the value of the work. You should have a look at that.


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