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Design Thinking in Engineering Course Design

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Design Thinking and Creativity

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Nicholas D. Fila Iowa State University

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Nicholas D. Fila is a postdoctoral research associate in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Industrial Design at Iowa State University. He earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. His current research interests include innovation, empathy, design thinking, instructional design heuristics.

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Seda McKIlligan Iowa State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. McKilligan's research focuses on approaches in the design innovation process, ideation flexibility, investigations of problem-solution spaces, and concept generation and development practices of novices through practitioners. She produces theory, design principles and systems to support design, engineering and educational innovation processes, through studying experiences of individuals and teams that lead to innovative thinking and through integrating that knowledge into organizational change.

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Kelly Guerin Iowa State University

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Kelly Guerin is an Undergraduate Research Assistant at Iowa State University. She is a junior pursuing a Bachelor of Industrial Design.

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Design thinking is a robust framework for creatively and effectively identifying and solving important human problems. While design thinking is commonly associated with fields like industrial design, it can be applied to many problem types. For example, several recent examples demonstrate the applicability of design thinking to the design and development of educational materials, courses, and systems. These results suggest that design thinking could be used as a framework to (re)design and develop effective engineering courses. The goal of this project is to understand how nine educators from different backgrounds did or did not use design thinking to redesign a sophomore-level electrical and computer engineering course. The primary source of data was 21 transcribed audio recordings of design meetings and is supplemented with interviews, reflections, and course artifacts. Thematic analysis revealed 10 themes that represent connections and disconnections between the process used and a common five-stage design thinking process (empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test). These themes demonstrate some of the opportunities and challenges related to design thinking within an engineering course design setting. In particular, they suggest that engineering course design is a relevant context for design thinking, but one to which design thinking methods do not always naturally translated. Future work should focus on better understanding unique applications of design thinking within engineering course design and methods that might to support more designerly behaviors among engineering educators.

Fila, N. D., & McKIlligan, S., & Guerin, K. (2018, June), Design Thinking in Engineering Course Design Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30271

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