Technology innovation moves at an exponential rate making it extremely difficult for engineering instructors to educate students on the most recent practices. As a direct result most students, after completing their programs, have a strong understanding of fundamental theory, but little grasp on practical application shifting the responsibility onto all future employers. Therefore, in order to connect the disjoint of engineering theory and practice, universities must begin to reform their curriculum to allow students to understand the depth of engineering fundamental principles while also investigating how said principles branch into multiple sectors of industry. This is also known as developing T-shaped professional skills through a balanced teaching of theory and practice. In order to achieve this, a graduate elective course was created to provide an active learning environment where students focused on fuel cell systems, their technologies, and their environmental consequences. The course included a challenging and engaging curriculum, a three-day lecture series, interactive hands-on laboratory experiments, and a real world system design final project.
Over the past years this course has successfully strengthened student’s ability to connect theory and practical application and understand this technologies role in related fields. However, since this was a graduate elective course, which incorporated students from a variety of professional backgrounds, that connection was strengthen even further. Graduate students past experiences including industrial work force, university research, and continuing student, aided the course’s agenda by providing a variety of backgrounds and prospective that encouraged the development of T-professional skills in all students. This idea was not only shown through student performance, but also from student feedback provided from beginning, middle, and end of the semester surveys. As the class progressed, students were divided into teams, based on different experience levels, where they would design a working fuel cell system with balance of plant components and discuss its implementation and impact in a real world scenario. Initially, the surveys suggested that some of the more experienced students understood the practical application of said fuel cells, but lacked the depth of knowledge concerning the theory of technology, while students with little experience showed little understanding of fundamentals and practical application. The final survey suggested that by combining students from diverse backgrounds, more experienced students could guide weaker students in bridging the gap between fundamental theory and application. This is further seen in students’ final project, which saw a variety of methods and approaches to their designs. Lastly, the final survey also showed that the overall course allowed students from diverse demographics to successfully develop T-shaped professional skills, ultimately providing them with a stronger confidence in their ability as practicing engineers.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.