The faculty of engineering of the University of Regina has introduced a Design Start-up course in order to prepare senior students for the final design course. In an effort to bridge the gap between academic learning and industrial constraints, this course is designed to introduce basic principles of engineering design and, at the same time, address some of the concerns that the Canadian Accreditation Board had about the engineering program at the University. In the Spring of 1999, the course was taught in the presence of a psychologist for the first time. Special measures were taken to train students in excelling in a team environment. Numerous exercises were performed to gauge the likelihood of a student to survive under team constraints. Similarly, the concept of creative design was introduced and many exercises performed to stimulate creative thinking. It was observed that both the top 20% and bottom 20% (according to their cumulative GPA) disliked the format in the beginning of the class. This was not unexpected as both these groups are known to resist any changes in the teaching methodology, albeit for different reasons. At the end of the semester, however, the top 20% of the class did benefit from the new methodology (as evidenced from the achievement of various goals set by the instructor). Fifty percent of the bottom 20% also benefited from the format and improved on various aspects, including team work and creative design. The other 50% of this group did not produce any tangible result and failed the course. In the process, they blamed the system, the lack of 'good courses' throughout the previous years, and even their team mates for their failure. In terms of stimulating creative thinking, the class produced many creative design projects, many of which are likely to be followed up in the senior design class. In fact, all students who passed the course came up with two project ideas, one for the team and the other for the individual. All these projects can be considered to be original contribution to engineering design. At the end, 90% of the class appeared to improve their performance in formulating design projects.
Recently, the faculty of engineering of the University of Regina identified two major flaws in the academic curriculum. This is in line with recent demands from the industry. These deficiencies are mainly in the areas of teamwork and creative design. The value of teamwork in engineering is well known. However, it is also becoming evident that engineering education in North American has not kept up to the growing need of the industry and does not prepare students to assume positive roles in a team environment. In order to stay in business under an increasingly competitive environment, companies are demanding engineering skills beyond bookish information and are looking for engineers with skills in teamwork. The need for teamwork skills ranges from safety requirements to improved design. Universities must be able to provide adequate training to adapt future engineers to this new company culture.