Analyzing Multidisciplinary Team Effectiveness in an Engineering Environment

Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Civil and Mechanical Engineering

Publication Date


Publication Title

2018 ASEE Gulf-Southwest Section Annual Meeting

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


The West Point Steel Bridge Design Team is a group of five undergraduate seniors working to design and build a steel bridge for the annual ASCE Steel Bridge Competition. The purpose of our group’s research is to discover how multidisciplinary teams perform in academically competitive environments. This project provides a unique opportunity in the field of multidisciplinary collaborative work because the team’s success can be objectively measured against this year’s competitors and the team’s performance in previous years. The traditional structure of the West Point team consisted of three-to-five civil engineering majors. This year’s team includes a law and legal studies major and five civil engineers, two of which recently switched from systems engineering. Past designs have relied heavily on the work of previous years, which has led to stagnant performance at competitions. Our hypothesis is that by entering different perspectives into the group at an early stage, a revolutionary approach will ensue and overall performance will increase. The team did not completely disregard the designs and methods of previous teams, but the reliance on their decision-making process was more heavily scrutinized with the current multidisciplinary team. Our research is not solely limited to competitive performance. We also analyzed the decision-making process of this year’s team in comparison to previous years. While data on decision-making is not readily available, both the faculty advisor and two current team members who served on the team last year were able to provide personal insight into how the teams compare. Ultimately, this research seeks to provide groups in similar academically competitive environments an indication of whether a multidisciplinary composition will provide benefit to their team’s performance.

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