CDIO Syllabus 2.0 in Topical Form

CDIO Syllabus 2.0 in Topical Form



  • 1.1.1 Mathematics (including statistics)
  • 1.1.2 Physics
  • 1.1.3 Chemistry
  • 1.1.4 Biology





2.1.1 Problem Identification and Formulation

  • Data and symptoms
  • Assumptions and sources of bias
  • Issue prioritization in context of overall goals
  • A plan of attack (incorporating model, analytical and numerical solutions, qualitative analysis, experimentation and consideration of uncertainty)

2.1.2 Modeling

  • Assumptions to simplify complex systems and environment
  • Conceptual and qualitative models
  • Quantitative models and simulations

2.1.3 Estimation and Qualitative Analysis

  • Orders of magnitude, bounds and trends
  • Tests for consistency and errors (limits, units, etc.)
  • The generalization of analytical solutions

2.1.4 Analysis with Uncertainty

  • Incomplete and ambiguous information
  • Probabilistic and statistical models of events and sequences
  • Engineering cost-benefit and risk analysis
  • Decision analysis
  • Margins and reserves

2.1.5 Solution and Recommendation

  • Problem solutions
  • Essential results of solutions and test data
  • Discrepancies in results
  • Summary recommendations
  • Possible improvements in the problem solving process


2.2.1 Hypothesis Formulation

  • Critical questions to be examined
  • Hypotheses to be tested
  • Controls and control groups

2.2.2 Survey of Print and Electronic Literature

  • The literature and media research strategy
  • Information search and identification using library, on-line and database tools
  • Sorting and classifying the primary information
  • The quality and reliability of information
  • The essentials and innovations contained in the information
  • Research questions that are unanswered
  • Citations to references

2.2.3 Experimental Inquiry

  • The experimental concept and strategy
  • The precautions when humans are used in experiments
  • Investigations based on social science methods
  • Experiment construction
  • Test protocols and experimental procedures
  • Experimental measurements
  • Experimental data
  • Experimental data vs. available models

2.2.4 Hypothesis Test and Defense

  • The statistical validity of data
  • The limitations of data employed
  • Conclusions, supported by data, needs and values
  • Possible improvements in knowledge discovery process


2.3.1 Thinking Holistically

  • A system, its function and behavior, and its elements
  • Trans-disciplinary approaches that ensure the system is understood from all relevant perspectives
  • The societal, enterprise and technical context of the system
  • The interactions external to the system, and the behavioral impact of the system

2.3.2 Emergence and Interactions in Systems

  • The abstractions necessary to define and model the entities or elements of the system
  • The important relationships, interactions and interfaces among elements
  • The functional and behavioral properties (intended and unintended) that emerge from the system
  • Evolutionary adaptation over time

2.3.3 Prioritization and Focus

  • All factors relevant to the system in the whole
  • The driving factors from among the whole
  • Energy and resource allocations to resolve the driving issues

2.3.4 Trade-offs, Judgment and Balance in Resolution

  • Tensions and factors to resolve through trade-offs
  • Solutions that balance various factors, resolve tensions and optimize the system as a whole
  • Flexible vs. optimal solutions over the system lifetime
  • Possible improvements in the system thinking used


2.4.1 Initiative and Willingness to Make Decisions in the Face of Uncertainty

  • The needs and opportunities for initiative
  • Leadership in new endeavors, with a bias for appropriate action
  • Decisions, based on the information at hand
  • Development of a course of action
  • The potential benefits and risks of an action or decision

2.4.2 Perseverance, Urgency and Will to Deliver, Resourcefulness and Flexibility

  • Sense of responsibility for outcomes
  • Self-confidence, courage and enthusiasm
  • Determination to accomplish objectives
  • The importance of hard work, intensity and attention to detail
  • Definitive action, delivery of results and reporting on actions
  • Adaptation to change
  • Making ingenious use of the resources of the situation or group
  • A readiness, willingness and ability to work independently
  • A willingness to work with others, and to consider and embrace various viewpoints
  • An acceptance of feedback, criticism and willingness to reflect and respond
  • The balance between personal and professional life

2.4.3 Creative Thinking

  • Conceptualization and abstraction
  • Synthesis and generalization
  • The process of invention
  • The role of creativity in art, science, the humanities and technology

2.4.4 Critical Thinking

  • Purpose and statement of the problem or issue
  • Assumptions
  • Logical arguments (and fallacies) and solutions
  • Supporting evidence, facts and information
  • Points of view and theories
  • Conclusions and implications
  • Reflection on the quality of the thinking

2.4.5 Self-Awareness, Metacognition and Knowledge Integration

  • One’s skills, interests, strengths and weaknesses
  • The extent of one’s abilities, and one’s responsibility for self-improvement to overcome important weaknesses
  • The importance of both depth and breadth of knowledge
  • Identification of how effectively and in what way one is thinking
  • Linking knowledge together and identifying the structure of knowledge

2.4.6 Lifelong Learning and Educating

  • The motivation for continued self-education
  • The skills of self-education
  • One’s own learning styles
  • Relationships with mentors
  • Enabling learning in others

2.4.7 Time and Resource Management

  • Task prioritization
  • The importance and/or urgency of tasks
  • Efficient execution of tasks


2.5.1 Ethics, Integrity and Social Responsibility

  • One’s ethical standards and principles
  • The moral courage to act on principle despite adversity
  • The possibility of conflict between professionally ethical imperatives
  • A commitment to service
  • Truthfulness
  • A commitment to help others and society more broadly

2.5.2 Professional Behavior

  • A professional bearing
  • Professional courtesy
  • International customs and norms of interpersonal contact

2.5.3 Proactive Vision and Intention in Life

  • A personal vision for one’s future
  • Aspiration to exercise his/her potentials as a leader
  • One’s portfolio of professional skills
  • Considering one’s contributions to society
  • Inspiring others

2.5.4 Staying Current on the World of Engineering

  • The potential impact of new scientific discoveries
  • The social and technical impact of new technologies and innovations
  • A familiarity with current practices/technology in engineering
  • The links between engineering theory and practice

2.5.5 Equity and Diversity

  • A commitment to treat others with equity
  • Embracing diversity in groups and workforce
  • Accommodating diverse backgrounds

2.5.6 Trust and Loyalty

  • Loyalty to one’s colleagues and team
  • Recognizing and emphasizing the contributions of others
  • Working to make others successful



3.1.1 Forming Effective Teams

  • The stages of team formation and life cycle
  • Task and team processes
  • Team roles and responsibilities
  • The goals, needs and characteristics (works styles, cultural differences) of individual team members
  • The strengths and weaknesses of the team and its members
  • Ground rules on norms of team confidentiality, accountability and initiative

3.1.2 Team Operation

  • Goals and agenda
  • The planning and facilitation of effective meetings
  • Team ground rules
  • Effective communication (active listening, collaboration, providing and obtaining information)
  • Positive and effective feedback
  • The planning, scheduling and execution of a project
  • Solutions to problems (team creativity and decision making)
  • Conflict mediation, negotiation and resolution
  • Empowering those on the team

3.1.3 Team Growth and Evolution

  • Strategies for reflection, assessment and self-assessment
  • Skills for team maintenance and growth
  • Skills for individual growth within the team
  • Strategies for team communication and reporting

3.1.4 Team Leadership

  • Team goals and objectives
  • Team process management
  • Leadership and facilitation styles (directing, coaching, supporting, delegating)
  • Approaches to motivation (incentives, example, recognition, etc.)
  • Representing the team to others
  • Mentoring and counseling

3.1.5 Technical and Multidisciplinary Teaming

  • Working in different types of teams:
  • Cross-disciplinary teams (including non-engineer)
  • Small team vs. large team
  • Distance, distributed and electronic environments
  • Technical collaboration with team members
  • Working with non-technical members and teams


3.2.1 Communications Strategy

  • The communication situation
  • Communications objectives
  • The needs and character of the audience
  • The communication context
  • A communications strategy
  • The appropriate combination of media
  • A communication style (proposing, reviewing, collaborating, documenting, teaching)
  • The content and organization

3.2.2 Communications Structure

  • Logical, persuasive arguments
  • The appropriate structure and relationship amongst ideas
  • Relevant, credible, accurate supporting evidence
  • Conciseness, crispness, precision and clarity of language
  • Rhetorical factors (e.g. audience bias)
  • Cross-disciplinary cross-cultural communications

3.2.3 Written Communication

  • Writing with coherence and flow
  • Writing with correct spelling, punctuation and grammar
  • Formatting the document
  • Technical writing
  • Various written styles (informal, formal memos, reports, resume, etc.)

3.2.4 Electronic/Multimedia Communication

  • Preparing electronic presentations
  • The norms associated with the use of e-mail, voice mail, and videoconferencing
  • Various electronic styles (charts, web, etc)

3.2.5 Graphical Communications

  • Sketching and drawing
  • Construction of tables, graphs and charts
  • Formal technical drawings and renderings
  • Use of graphical tools

3.2.6 Oral Presentation

  • Preparing presentations and supporting media with appropriate language, style, timing and flow
  • Appropriate nonverbal communications (gestures, eye contact, poise)
  • Answering questions effectively

3.2.7 Inquiry, Listening and Dialog

  • Listening carefully to others, with the intention to understand
  • Asking thoughtful questions of others
  • Processing diverse points of view
  • Constructive dialog
  • Recognizing ideas that may be better than your own

3.2.8 Negotiation, Compromise and Conflict Resolution

  • Identifying potential disagreements, tensions or conflicts
  • Negotiation to find acceptable solutions
  • Reaching agreement without compromising fundamental principles
  • Diffusing conflicts

3.2.9 Advocacy

  • Clearly explaining one’s point of view
  • Explaining how one reached an interpretation or conclusion
  • Assessing how well you are understood
  • Adjusting approach to advocacy on audience characteristics

3.2.10 Establishing Diverse Connections and Networking

  • Appreciating those with different skills, cultures or experiences
  • Engaging and connecting with diverse individuals
  • Building extended social networks
  • Activating and using networks to achieve goals


3.3.1 Communications in English

3.3.2 Communications in Languages of Regional Commerce and Industry

3.3.3 Communications in Other Languages



4.1.1 Roles and Responsibility of Engineers

  • The goals and roles of the engineering profession
  • The responsibilities of engineers to society and a sustainable future

4.1.2 The Impact of Engineering on Society and the Environment

  • The impact of engineering on the environmental, social, knowledge and economic systems in modern culture

4.1.3 Society’s Regulation of Engineering

  • The role of society and its agents to regulate engineering
  • The way in which legal and political systems regulate and influence engineering
  • How professional societies license and set standards
  • How intellectual property is created, utilized and defended

4.1.4 The Historical and Cultural Context

  • The diverse nature and history of human societies as well as their literary, philosophical and artistic traditions
  • The discourse and analysis appropriate to the discussion of language, thought and values

4.1.5 Contemporary Issues and Values [3j]

  • The important contemporary political, social, legal and environmental issues and values
  • The processes by which contemporary values are set, and one’s role in these processes
  • The mechanisms for expansion and diffusion of knowledge

4.1.6 Developing a Global Perspective

  • The internationalization of human activity
  • The similarities and differences in the political, social, economic, business and technical norms of various cultures
  • International and intergovernmental agreements and alliances

4.1.7 Sustainability and the Need for Sustainable Development

  • Definition of sustainability
  • Goals and importance of sustainability
  • Principles of sustainability
  • Need to apply sustainability principles in engineering endeavors


4.2.1 Appreciating Different Enterprise Cultures

  • The differences in process, culture, and metrics of success in various enterprise cultures:
    • Corporate vs. academic vs. governmental vs. non-profit/NGO
    • Market vs. policy driven
    • Large vs. small
    • Centralized vs. distributed
    • Research and development vs. operations
    • Mature vs. growth phase vs. entrepreneurial
    • Longer vs. faster development cycles
    • With vs. without the participation of organized labor

4.2.2 Enterprise Stakeholders, Strategy and Goals

  • The stakeholders and beneficiaries of an enterprise (owners, employees, customers, etc.)
  • Obligations to stakeholders
  • The mission, scope and goals of the enterprise
  • Enterprise strategy and resource allocation
  • An enterprise’s core competence and markets
  • Key alliances and supplier relations

4.2.3 Technical Entrepreneurship

  • Entrepreneurial opportunities that can be addressed by technology
  • Technologies that can create new products and systems
  • Entrepreneurial finance and organization

4.2.4 Working in Organizations

  • The function of management
  • Various roles and responsibilities in an organization
  • The roles of functional and program organizations
  • Working effectively within hierarchy and organizations
  • Change, dynamics and evolution in organizations

4.2.5 Working in International Organizations

  • Culture and tradition of enterprise as a reflection of national culture
  • Equivalence of qualifications and degrees
  • Governmental regulation of international work

4.2.6 New Technology Development and Assessment

  • The research and technology development process
  • Identifying and assessing technologies
  • Technology development roadmaps
  • Intellectual property regimes and patents

4.2.7 Engineering Project Finance and Economics

  • Financial and managerial goals and metrics
  • Project finance – investments, return, timing
  • Financial planning and control
  • Impact of projects on enterprise finance, income and cash


4.3.1 Understanding Needs and Setting Goals

  • Needs and opportunities
    • Customer needs, and those of the market
    • Opportunities that derive from new technology or latent needs
    • Environmental needs
  • Factors that set the context of the system goals
    • Enterprise goals, strategies, capabilities and alliances
    • Competitors and benchmarking information
    • Ethical, social, environmental, legal and regulatory influences
    • The probability of change in the factors that influence the system, its goals and resources available
  • System goals and requirements
    • The language/format of goals and requirements
    • Initial target goals (based on needs, opportunities and other influences)
    • System performance metrics
    • Requirement completeness and consistency

4.3.2 Defining Function, Concept and Architecture

  • Necessary system functions (and behavioral specifications)
  • System concepts
  • Incorporation of the appropriate level of technology
  • Trade-offs among and recombination of concepts
  • High-level architectural form and structure
  • The decomposition of form into elements, assignment of function to elements, and definition of interfaces

4.3.3 System Engineering, Modeling and Interfaces

  • Appropriate models of technical performance and other attributes
  • Consideration of implementation and operations
  • Life cycle value and costs (design, implementation, operations, opportunity, etc.)
  • Trade-offs among various goals, function, concept and structure and iteration until convergence
  • Plans for interface management

4.3.4 Development Project Management

  • Project control for cost, performance and schedule
    • Appropriate transition points and reviews
    • Configuration management and documentation
    • Performance compared to baseline
  • Earned value recognition
  • The estimation and allocation of resources
  • Risks and alternatives
  • Possible development process improvements


4.4.1 The Design Process

  • Requirements for each element or component derived from system level goals and requirements
  • Alternatives in design
  • The initial design
  • Life cycle consideration in design
  • Experimental prototypes and test articles in design development
  • Appropriate optimization in the presence of constraints
  • Iteration until convergence
  • The final design
  • Accommodation of changing requirements

4.4.2 The Design Process Phasing and Approaches

  • The activities in the phases of system design (e.g. conceptual, preliminary and detailed design)
  • Process models appropriate for particular development projects (waterfall, spiral, concurrent, etc.)
  • The process for single, platform and derivative products

4.4.3 Utilization of Knowledge in Design

  • Technical and scientific knowledge
  • Modes of thought (problem solving, inquiry, system thinking, creative and critical thinking)
  • Prior work in the field, standardization and reuse of designs (including reverse engineering and refactoring, redesign)
  • Design knowledge capture

4.4.4 Disciplinary Design

  • Appropriate techniques, tools and processes
  • Design tool calibration and validation
  • Quantitative analysis of alternatives
  • Modeling, simulation and test
  • Analytical refinement of the design

4.4.5 Multidisciplinary Design

  • Interactions between disciplines
  • Dissimilar conventions and assumptions
  • Differences in the maturity of disciplinary models
  • Multidisciplinary design environments
  • Multidisciplinary design

4.4.6 Design for Sustainability, Safety, Aesthetics, Operability and Other Objectives

  • Design for:
    • Performance, quality, robustness, life cycle cost and value
    • Sustainability
    • Safety and security
    • Aesthetics
    • Human factors, interaction and supervision
    • Implementation, verification, test and environmental sustainability
    • Operations
    • Maintainability, dependability and reliability
    • Evolution, product improvement
    • Retirement, reusability and recycling


4.5.1 Designing a Sustainable Implementation Process

  • The goals and metrics for implementation performance, cost and quality
  • The implementation system design:
    • Task allocation and cell/unit layout
    • Workflow
    • Considerations for human user/operators
  • Consideration of sustainability

4.5.2 Hardware Manufacturing Process

  • The manufacturing of parts
  • The assembly of parts into larger constructs
  • Tolerances, variability, key characteristics and statistical process control

4.5.3 Software Implementing Process

  • The break down of high-level components into module designs (including algorithms and data structures)
  • Algorithms (data structures, control flow, data flow)
  • The programming language and paradigms
  • The low-level design (coding)
  • The system build

4.5.4 Hardware Software Integration

  • The integration of software in electronic hardware (size of processor, communications, etc.)
  • The integration of software with sensor, actuators and mechanical hardware
  • Hardware/software function and safety

4.5.5 Test, Verification, Validation and Certification

  • Test and analysis procedures (hardware vs. software, acceptance vs. qualification)
  • The verification of performance to system requirements
  • The validation of performance to customer needs
  • The certification to standards

4.5.6 Implementation Management

  • The organization and structure for implementation
  • Sourcing and partnering
  • Supply chains and logistics
  • Control of implementation cost, performance and schedule
  • Quality assurance
  • Human health and safety
  • Environmental security
  • Possible implementation process improvements


4.6.1 Designing and Optimizing Sustainable and Safe Operations

  • The goals and metrics for operational performance, cost and value
  • Sustainable operations
  • Safe and secure operations
  • Operations process architecture and development
  • Operations (and mission) analysis and modeling

4.6.2 Training and Operations

  • Training for professional operations:
    • Simulation
    • Instruction and programs
    • Procedures
  • Education for consumer operation
  • Operations processes
  • Operations process interactions

4.6.3 Supporting the System Life Cycle

  • Maintenance and logistics
  • Life cycle performance and reliability
  • Life cycle value and costs
  • Feedback to facilitate system improvement

4.6.4 System Improvement and Evolution

  • Pre-planned product improvement
  • Improvements based on needs observed in operation
  • Evolutionary system upgrades
  • Contingency improvements/solutions resulting from operational necessity

4.6.5 Disposal and Life-End Issues

  • The end of useful life
  • Disposal options
  • Residual value at life-end
  • Environmental considerations for disposal

4.6.6 Operations Management

  • The organization and structure for operations
  • Partnerships and alliances
  • Control of operations cost, performance and scheduling
  • Quality and safety assurance
  • Possible operations process improvements
  • Life cycle management
  • Human health and safety
  • Environmental security

The Extended CDIO Syllabus:

Leadership and Entrepreneurship

This extension to the CDIO Syllabus is provided as a resource for programs that seek to respond to stakeholder expressed needs in the areas of Engineering Leadership and Entrepreneurship


Engineering Leadership builds on factors already included above, including:
Attitudes of Leadership – Core Personal Values and Character, including topics in Attitudes, Thought and Learning (2.4), and in Ethics, Equity and Other Responsibilities (2.5)
Relating to Others, including topics in Teamwork (3.1), Communications (3.2) and potentially Communications in Foreign Languages (3.3)
Making Sense of Context, including topics in External , Societal and Environmental Context (4.1), Enterprise and Business Context (4.2) Conceiving, Systems Engineering and Management (4.3) and System Thinking (2.3).
In addition there are several topics that constitute creating a Purposeful Vision:

4.7.1 Identifying the Issue, Problem or Paradox

  • Synthesizing the understanding of needs or opportunities (that technical systems can address)
  • Clarifying the central issues
  • Framing the problem to be solved
  • Identifying the underlying paradox to be examined

4.7.2 Thinking Creatively and Communicating Possibilities

  • How to create new ideas and approaches
  • New visions of technical systems that meet the needs of customers and society
  • Communicating visions for products and enterprises
  • Compelling visions for the future

4.7.3 Defining the Solution

  • The vision for the engineering solution
  • Achievable goals for qual i ty performance, budget and schedule
  • Consideration of customer and beneficiary
  • Consideration of technology options
  • Consideration of regulatory, political and competitive forces

4.7.4 Creating New Solution Concepts

  • Setting requirements and specifications
  • The high-level concept for the solution
  • Architecture and interfaces
  • Alignment with other projects of the enterprise
  • Alignment with enterprise strategy, resources and infrastructure

And several topics that lead to Delivering on the Vision:

4.7.5 Building and Leading an Organization and Extended Organization

  • Recruiting key team members with complementary skills
  • Start-up of team processes, and technical interchange
  • Defining roles, responsibilities and incentives
  • Leading group decision-making
  • Assessing group progress and performance
  • Building the competence of others and succession
  • Partnering with external competence

4.7.6 Planning and Managing a Project to Completion

  • Plans of action and alternatives to deliver completed projects on time
  • Deviation from plan, and re-planning
  • Managing human, time, financial and technical resources to meet plan
  • Program risk, configuration and documentation
  • Program economics and the impact of decisions on them

4.7.7 Exercising Project/Solution Judgment and Critical Reasoning

  • Making complex technical decisions with uncertain and incomplete information
  • Questioning and critical ly evaluating the decisions of others
  • Corroborating inputs from several sources
  • Evaluating evidence and identifying the val idi ty of key assumptions
  • Understanding alternatives that are proposed by others
  • Judging the expected evolution of al l solutions in the future

4.7.8 Innovation – the Conception, Design and Introduction of New Goods and Services

  • Designing and introducing new goods and services to the marketplace
  • Designing solutions to meet customer and societal needs
  • Designing solutions with the appropriate balance of new and existing technology
  • Robust, flexible and adaptable products
  • Consideration of current and future competition
  • Validating the effectiveness of the solution

4.7.9 Invention – the Development of New Devices, Materials or Processes that Enable New Goods and Services

  • Science and technology basis and options
  • Imagining possibilities
  • Inventing a practical device or process that enables a new product or solution
  • Adherence to intellectual property regimes

4.7.10 Implementation and Operation – the Creation and Operation of the Goods and Services that will Deliver Value

  • Leading implementing and operating
  • Importance of quality
  • Safe operations
  • Operations to deliver value to the customer and society

These last three items are in fact the leadership of the core processes of engineering: conceiving, designing, implementing and operating


Engineering Entrepreneurship includes by reference all of the aspects of Societal and Enterprise Context.

In addition, there are the entrepreneurship specific skills:

4.8.1 Company Founding, Formulation, Leadership and Organization

  • Creating the corporate entity and financial infrastructure
  • Team of supporting partners (bank, lawyer, accounting, etc.)
  • Consideration of local labor law and practices
  • The founding leadership team
  • The initial organization
  • The board of the company
  • Advisors to the company

4.8.2 Business Plan Development

  • A need in the world that you will fill
  • A technology that can become a product
  • A team that can develop the product
  • Plan for development
  • Uses of capital
  • Liquidity strategy

4.8.3 Company Capitalization and Finances

  • Capital needed, and timing of need (to reach next major milestone)
  • Investors as sources of capital
  • Alternative sources of capital (government, etc.)
  • Structure of investment (terms, price, etc.)
  • Financial analysis for investors
  • Management of finances
  • Expenditures against intermediate milestones of progress

4.8.4 Innovative Product Marketing

  • Size of potential market
  • Competitive analyses
  • Penetration of market
  • Product positioning
  • Relationships with customers
  • Product pricing
  • Sales initiation
  • Distribution to customers

4.8.5 Conceiving Products and Services around New Technologies

  • New technologies available
  • Assessing the readiness of technology
  • Assessing the ability of your enterprise to innovate based on the technology
  • Assessing the product impact of the technology
  • Accessing the technologies though partnerships, licenses, etc.
  • A team to productize the technology

4.8.6 The Innovation System, Networks, Infrastructure and Services

  • Relationships for enterprise success
  • Mentoring of the enterprise leadership
  • Supporting financial services
  • Investor networks
  • Suppliers

4.8.7 Building the Team and Initiating Engineering Processes (conceiving, designing, implementing and operating)

  • Hiring the right skill mix
  • Technical process startup
  • Building an engineering culture
  • Establishing enterprise processes

4.8.8 Managing Intellectual Property

  • IP landscape for your product or technology
  • IP strategy – offensive and defensive
  • Filing patents and provisional patents
  • IP legal support
  • Entrepreneurial opportunities that can be addressed by technology
  • Technologies that can create new products and systems
  • Entrepreneurial finance and organization
Go to top