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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering: Undergraduate Programs


The Biosystems Engineering program at the University of Arizona has a rich history dating back over one hundred years. Like similar departments at most Land Grant universities, the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering department is jointly administered by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering.  The Biosystems Engineering (BE) degree has no formal options but does have focus areas based on individual student interests. Students may choose a primary focus area in Biological Engineering or Water Resources Engineering (or a combination of both) by concentrating their technical and design electives on these topics. Within the Biological Engineering focus area, students may chose a pre-medicine track which allows them to satisfy all common medical school requirements and also meet BE degree requirements.   The Biosystems Engineering program at the University of Arizona is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, This accreditation mandates a continuous review process focused on program outcomes (what a student must be able to perform at the time of graduation), program objectives (long term productivity of graduates in meeting their professional needs), and program specific criteria (which differentiates one discipline from another).  At least every six years ABET conducts a site visit.  Our most recent ABET visit was in 2010; the next scheduled visit will be in Fall 2016. Our department also goes through Academic Program Review (APR) every seven year period and the last APR was in 2009. Despite this time between visits, the department maintains a continual review of our program and uses this information for continual improvement. 

Expected Learning Outcomes: 

ABET Criterion A


An ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science and engineering

  • will be proficient in mathematics to a level of differential equations
  • have an understanding of the physics concepts of mechanics, electric circuits, thermodynamics, and optics.
  • will be knowledgeable in basic chemistry
  • will be competent in the knowledge of and applying engineering science as required for their majors

ABET Criterion B

An ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data

  • will be able to design experiments to efficiently collect data to test a hypothesis or design a component using, statistical and probabilistic methods, basic sciences and engineering science background, his knowledge of the scientific/engineering method.
  • will be able to conduct experiments and collect information with, an understanding of equipment and measurement systems, his knowledge of the process through background of engineering/basic sciences
  • will be capable of drawing and presenting conclusions from experimental results through data analysis using, experience in statistical and probabilistic methods, appropriate forms of graphical presentation of data, her skills in data interpretation to draw important conclusions, his ability to transmit information effectively in verbal and written forms

ABET Criterion C

An ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs

  • have a firm understanding of the design process
  • appreciate the non-technical aspects of a design including environmental, socio-economic and regulatory impacts and constraints
  • have the ability to successfully consider ambiguity and poorly defined problems

ABET Criterion D

An ability to function on multidisciplinary teams

  • team dynamics
  • team communication
  • social norms
  • conflict management

ABET Criterion E

An ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems

  • have knowledge of the engineering method
  • solve open-ended, multiple solution problems with increasing difficulty through the curriculum
  • have ability to identify and formulate problems from a verbal or written statement including defining objectives and constraints
  • be capable of conducting a literature survey and collect data and background
  • material from appropriate sources
  • have the ability to formulate and solve engineering analysis problems

ABET Criterion F

An understanding of professional and ethical responsibility

  • knowledge of appropriate code of ethics related to his discipline.
  • knowledge of the impacts of engineering solutions on safety and quality
  • had exposure to engineering case studies that includes an ethical component
  • that includes societal and cultural considerations
  • knowledge of the steps required to obtain professional registration
  • an awareness of the need to maintain a knowledge of the current advances in her engineering discipline

ABET Criterion G

An ability to communicate effectively

  • in written form using words, graphs and tables
  • orally using words, graphs and tables in prepared presentations and extemporaneously
  • technical material to non-technical individuals
  • by accepting and understanding others' communications

ABET Criterion H

The broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context

  • exposure to issues in humanity
  • experience in informal discussions on current issues
  • interacted with students and faculty from other disciplines and cultural backgrounds
  • an understanding of how to bring global/societal issues into design criteria and constraints

ABET Criterion I

Recognition of the need for and an ability to engage in life-long learning

  • have an ability to identify and utilize resources on their own
  • participate in continuing education and professional engineer examination after graduation

ABET Criterion J

Knowledge of contemporary issues

  • A UA engineering will have a knowledge of contemporary engineering issues

ABET Criterion K

An ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice

  • have a working knowledge of computers (hardware and software) appropriate to program goals. Example tools are: ability to use equation solvers, ability to use spreadsheets, ability to use word processors, knowledge of and proficiency using email, ability to access and effectively collect information from the worldwide web, ability to use CAD software
  • be capable of effectively using engineering science techniques
  • have a working knowledge of equipment/instrumentation appropriate to program goals
Assessment Activities: 

We are proud that our faculty and students embrace these student learning outcomes. The outcomes are evaluated by required core classes. The instructors evaluate the course based on if student learning outcomes “a” through “k” are relevant in that course. The instructors determine which homework, quiz, exam questions or class projects demonstrate the required skill level, and the class average is calculated. The grade is based on a 4.0 scale, and it is then normalized to a 5.0 scale and reported to the ABET coordinator for compilation in the database. The results are based on a 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) basis.

Another method of determining student learning is the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. We require our students to take this exam during their senior year. The exam is a national exam that the students sign up for and take at a controlled, private, examination center. As described in its name, the exam covers the fundamentals of engineering, including math, science (physics and chemistry), and required engineering classes (statics, dynamics, materials, fluids, electrical, and thermodynamics. We also use FE exam scores in our assessment process.

The ABE program curriculum culminates with a Capstone design. This two semester class brings teams of students together to design and construct a project. Design projects are solicited from industry and faculty. We use Design Day judges evaluations in our assessment process. 

Senior students are required to fill out an exit survey. And, they rate their learning corresponding to ABET student learning outcomes a-k at the time of their graduation. We use the data obtained from of the senior exit surveys as part of our assessment process.

The quality of a student’s educational experience is comprised of a number of factors. First is quality of instruction which is mainly a metric of faculty teaching effectiveness and relevance of the material in a single course. The second is the ability of the ABE undergraduate curriculum to prepare students for their future endeavors. This breaks down to the ability of the curriculum to satisfy the stated educational goals of the program. At the end of each course registered students are asked to complete an online TCE (Teacher-Course Evaluation) on the course. The TCE scores are also used as part of our assessment process.

Assessment Findings: 

Please see the file below titled "Assessment Findings 2009-2016" for detailed assessment findings for student learning outcomes and assessment of the undergraduate program.

Change in Response to Findings: 
Changes Made to Program in Response to Findings (since 2009 review):
Since the last academic review of the ABE program, a number of changes to the curriculum have been instituted. Some of these changes were made at the College of Engineering level due to the College instituting a common curriculum for all freshmen engineering students. Other changes were program specific and were put in place to provide a more standard series of foundation courses. In addition to changes in the major requirements, we have modified the minor requirements to bring them more in line with minor requirements of other engineering programs at the University of Arizona. 
Specific changes to the curriculum since 2008 are:
1) ABE 205 (Engineering Analytic Computer Skills) is now a more formal class which is taken in the spring of sophomore year. This class covers Excel, Visual Basic, Access, and Matlab with an emphasis on flow charts, graphing, regression analysis, if-then, do loop, statistics, functions, and subroutines. Applications include biological energy, growth, and CO2 models.
2) Requirement of taking AME 250 (dynamics) has been removed from the curriculum because of the limitation of units to graduate. This change was done with the approval of the Industrial Advisory Committee. Students minoring in Mechanical Engineering still take this course. We saw a slight, 10% drop in FE exam questions relating to dynamics and found this to be acceptable.
3) ABE 484 (transport phenomena applied to biological systems) is no longer being offered. Students are now required to take an ABE 400-level elective, or AME 431 (Fluid Mechanics), or AME 432 (Heat Transfer).
4) ABE 201 used to include time to introduce the sophomores to the fabrication shop. We found this to be ineffective as the majority of the students had time constraints on when they could be at the shop. We also identified the need to boost the student’s knowledge of micro-computing (Arduino and Raspberry PI). In 2015 we substituted the shop time for a lecture and 2 labs using Arduino micro-computers. We also introduced an experimental 1 unit shop fabrication course. We found that the micro-computing curriculum was well received and have decided to expand it in 2016.
5) ABE/PLS 579 Applied Instrumentation for Controlled Environment Agriculture course was converted from only graduate level to both undergraduate and graduate level offering with ABE/PLS 479/579.
Updated date: Tue, 01/10/2017 - 20:22