Baseball Stadium Design: Teaching Engineering Economics and Technical Communication in a Multi-Disciplinary Setting

  • Kevin Dahm
  • James Newell


Rowan University?s Sophomore Engineering Clinic provides students with an innovative introduction to multidisciplinary engineering design linked with formal training in technical communication. The course is team taught by faculty from the College of Communications and the College of Engineering. During the past two years, a very successful Sophomore Clinic module on economic design of a baseball stadium was conducted. Student teams were presented with a list of possible stadium designs, in which the major parameters were cost and seating capacity, and were challenged to determine which design best addresses the team?s needs. Working in teams of 3-4, they analyzed data to quantify the effect of team payroll on won-loss record, which in turn affected ticket sales and merchandising revenues. Their goal was to produce an optimized economic strategy for running the team, the cornerstone of which was the stadium selection. To support this project, engineering classroom instruction was devoted to introducing the design process (~2 weeks), fundamentals of engineering economics (~6 weeks) and basic statistics (1 week). Concurrently, communications faculty members spent nearly four hours per week training students in public speaking. At the end of the semester, students presented their design in a simulated business meeting to engineering faculty, who portrayed the owners of the team, and communications faculty, who portrayed city officials. Students were thus challenged to convince two groups who had very different agendas that their design is best. Consequently, the module provided a practical exercise in persuasive speaking that nicely complemented the more familiar technical seminar. This format also served to connect the engineering economics aspect of the clinic with the public speaking component. Students responded favorably to this experience, rating it above 4 (4.33 and 4.13 in successive classes) on a fivepoint scale. Comments from students on course evaluation forms indicated that they felt this experience ?prepared them for business issues? and ?was the most valuable thing they had done this year.?