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Designing a Multi-Cycle Approach to Empathetic Electrical Engineering Courses

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

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Paper Authors

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Rachel Ann Shannon Iowa State University


Sara Kaye Jones

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Sara Jones completed both her BS and MS in Electrical Engineering at Iowa State University. Her interests in Engineering Education stem from her years spent as a teaching assistant and mentor for a freshman introductory Electrical Engineering class. She is particularly passionate about incorporating empathy into engineering education in order to promote diversity and inclusion.

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Mani Mina Iowa State University

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Mani Mina is with the department of Industrial Design and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Iowa State University. He has been working on better understanding of students' learning and aspects of technological and engineering philosophy and literacy. In particular how such literacy and competency are reflected in curricular and student activities. His interests also include Design and Engineering, the human side of engineering, new ways of teaching engineering in particular Electromagnetism and other classes that are mathematically driven. His research and activities also include on avenues to connect Product Design and Engineering Education in a synergetic way.

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ABSTRACT Background The ability to empathize provides the basis to understand others, an often overlooked professional skill in engineering curriculums. Studies have shown that engineering students have less empathy after completing their degree than when they had entered [1]. Having low amounts of empathy in engineers can result in less concern for public welfare and social considerations during the engineering design process.

Purpose In this work, we consider when engineering students are entering an empathetic cycle. Most studies develop a model based on an educators’ perspective and how empathy is a teachable and learnable skill. This study examines how engineering students can enter, sustain, and improve their cycles of empathy.

Design/Method A qualitative approach is taken to compare and contrast the end-of-semester reflections from students in engineering and design. Coding, an ethnographic research method used to find thematic patterns and similarities throughout documents, is used to analyze reflections from students who have taken courses in electromagnetism for electrical engineers, electromagnetism for non-electrical engineers, and an industrial design course with a focus on engineering and technology literacy for designers.

Results We propose a multi-cycle model of empathy in engineering that identifies self-awareness as the first step to empathy through the cycle of inquiry. Our model incorporates existing models of empathy in design [2], and empathy in engineering that introduces mode switching [3].

Shannon, R. A., & Jones, S. K., & Mina, M. (2019, June), Designing a Multi-Cycle Approach to Empathetic Electrical Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32612

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