Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Sheridan joins worldwide effort to reinvent engineering education

July 17, 2013
By Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Ontario’s Sheridan College has just become a member of the CDIO Initiative—a worldwide movement to restore the balance between teaching ‘practice’ skills and the fundamentals of math and science to engineering students.

What started as a partnership between MIT and a few Swedish universities in 2001 has gained significant international momentum with 103 institutions adopting the model.  Sheridan is the fifth Canadian institution and the first college in the world to be accepted.

As a new philosophy for engineering education, the framework educates students to Conceive, Design, Implement and Operate complex, value-added engineering products, processes and systems in a modern, team-based, global environment.  Rich in project-based, hands-on learning, it aims to produce engineers who are ‘ready to engineer’ when they graduate.

The overarching goals are to help students master a deep working knowledge of technical fundamentals, lead in the creation of new products, processes and systems and understand the importance and strategic impact of research and technological development on society.


“The CDIO model aligns perfectly with Sheridan’s vision to become Ontario’s first undergraduate teaching university dedicated to applied, professional education,” says Dr. Jeff Zabudsky, president and CEO of Sheridan College.  “Our programs are rooted in innovation, design thinking, interdisciplinary learning, applied research and creative activities.  Like the CDIO model, we embed both theoretical and applied learning, create opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration, and link our education to industry and community needs.”

The CDIO syllabus codifies what engineers should know and be able to do when they graduate.  Major competencies include disciplinary knowledge and reasoning, personal and professional skills (like experimentation, prioritization, resourcefulness, self-awareness, ethics and integrity), teamwork and communications, and understanding the societal and enterprise context. Institutions adopt 12 common standards to ensure the framework meets its objectives.

As Dr. Rick Sellens, lead for CDIO at Queen’s University, explains it, “The quality and flavour of an engineering program comes from the people and the institution behind it. CDIO provides a roadmap to help programs of all flavours graduate students who are ready to make a positive contribution in professional engineering practice, while retaining the distinctive strengths and character of those institutions. Being part of the CDIO Initiative lets collaborators draw on world-wide experience to avoid reinventing the wheel while crafting programs focused on professional engineering practice for our students.”

“While CDIO emphasizes the fundamentals of math and science in order to give students the foundational knowledge to analyze a problem or design, this is reinforced through project-based and hands-on experiences that are integrated with course work,” explains Dr. Farzad Rayegani, associate dean of the School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering & Technology and the CDIO leader for Sheridan College.  “Having the right kind of physical environment is crucial.  Workspaces at CDIO institutions must be student-centered, user-friendly, accessible and interactive. They need to make room for conceptual development and reflection, digitally-supported design and systems integration, as well as testing and operation.

“CDIO membership brings with it the possibility for collaboration in engineering education with other partner institutions” adds Rayegani. “Being part of CDIO enables Sheridan to discuss initiatives such as joint projects, exchange courses, and program development ideas with leading universities from Asia, Australia, Europe and North and South America.”

For more information about CDIO, please visit:

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