Asee peer logo

Constructing Classroom Role Playing Exercises

Download Paper |


2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.297.1 - 6.297.6



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

John Pearce

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2632

Constructing Classroom Role Playing Exercises

John A. Pearce Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering The University of Texas at Austin Austin, Texas 78712


Role playing exercises in the classroom can be used to bring vitality and the feel of realism to discussions of the impact of technology on society. The key to success is creating a realistic structure for the exercise and giving the various roles depth and realistic attributes.

I. Introduction

The particular class is Steam Power and Electricity Generation, a second semester freshman tutorial course in the Plan II honors program at the University of Texas at Austin. This course focuses on the impact of technological development and is one of several "substantial writing component" courses in the curriculum. Students in the Plan II program are purposefully chosen from a wide range of degree programs in Natural Sciences, Engineering, Social Sciences, Liberal Arts, Public Policy, Languages and Performance Arts. The classes are intentionally composed of mixed majors to provide a broad perspective in the discussions. I found the style of teaching required a refreshing change from my usual classroom experience. The standard engineering lecture format is, of necessity, used very sparingly during the course. Nonetheless, a core subset of very basic lectures on introductory electric circuits, thermodynamics and structural mechanics is essential. The key message of the lectures is that the ability to calculate, predict and quantitatively evaluate the performance of machines is an essential component of engineering design — and this ability is what makes rapid progress possible. The downside is that new technology invariably seems to create new problems, both social and environmental.

In this class I use the hind-sight experience of 18th to 20th century technological development to illuminate trends and effects in recent technological innovations. After all, the impact of the development of railroads, high capacity steam prime movers and electrical power generation and distribution created the most significant changes in social fabric in all of history. The in-class texts 1., 2. present effective summaries of the nature and origins of the technological innovations. The number of close parallels in events between the industrial revolution in the past and information technology today is striking, to say the least. Students in technologically-oriented majors readily relate to those aspects of the issues, but often do not have a clear perspective on the social implications. Students in non-technical majors find the technical aspects boring. Both types of students can benefit from perspectives gained in role-playing exercises.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001 American Society for Engineering Education

Pearce, J. (2001, June), Constructing Classroom Role Playing Exercises Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9036

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2001 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015