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Designing in a Social Context: Situating Design in a Human-Centered, Social World

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Design Across Disciplines

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.444.1 - 22.444.11



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Paper Authors

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Craig Titus Purdue University


Carla B. Zoltowski Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Carla B. Zoltowski is Education Administrator of the EPICS Program at Purdue University. She received her B.S.and M.S. in Electrical Engineering and Ph.D. in Engineering Education, all from Purdue University. She has served as a lecturer in Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

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William C. Oakes Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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William Oakes is the Director of the EPICS Program at Purdue University, one of the founding faculty members of the School of Engineering Education and a courtesy faculty member in Mechanical Engineering and Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education. He is an fellow of the ASEE and NSPE. .He was the first engineer to win the Campus Compact Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service-Learning. He was a co-recipient of the 2005 National Academy of Engineering’s Bernard Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education for his work in EPICS.

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Designing For a Flat Earth: Situating Design in a Human-Centered, Social World Increasingly, design is understood as a collaborative process in which different types ofengineers, as well as nonengineers from a variety of backgrounds, become part of the design andimplementation teams with which engineers must work collaboratively. Similarly, the process ofengineering design increasingly places the human impact of design and its products at the centerof the deliberations. “How might it have been designed otherwise?” is a question about thehuman consequences of human invention, a consideration of engineering design as a social andhumanistic field as well as a technical and scientific one. (Shulman, 2008) Design is a centraland distinguishing activity of engineering and one of the core criterion for evaluating andaccrediting engineering programs. Incorporating human-centered design approaches--approaches in which designers have as a focus the people they are designing for--posesadditional challenges. Not only do designers have the keep pace with the technology advances,they have to understand how the technology can be integrated in a way which keeps the needs ofthe stakeholders at a forefront, taking into account diverse social, cultural and ethicalconsiderations. In today’s globally competitive economy, it is more important than ever todevelop effective design skills which encourage innovation and entrepreneurial theundergraduate years,In addition to improving design competencies, the human-centered design approach engagesstudents in with real users and stakeholders who are addressing contemporary and social issues.This interplay provides opportunities for helping to address several of the ABET criteria that arechallenging to meet in traditional classes. These include some of the outcomes from ABET’sCriterion 3(c) an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realisticconstraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety,manufacturability, and sustainability(f) an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility(h) the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global,economic, environmental, and societal context(j) a knowledge of contemporary issuesThis paper will describe how a large, multidisciplinary program has integrated teaching human-centered design with the teaching of the broader ABET outcomes through a service-learningapproach. The paper will share many of the lessons we have learned in this process and willprovide ideas on best practices, both for bringing engineering and technology curriculum in linewith s requirements and also for addressing the broader interests of ABET as we educate theengineer of 2020 and beyond. We have developed pedagogical methods, teaching philosophies,and curriculum components to help students better integrate their thinking about the technicalaspects of design with the social aspects of design. Specifically, we have expanded our entireintroduction to design lecture series to provide examples of how engineering and technologyaffect people’s personal lives and how people’s lives affect design decisions. We have alsocreated small scale group-oriented workshops to allow students to work on design challenges in amore hands-on, personal way.

Titus, C., & Zoltowski, C. B., & Oakes, W. C. (2011, June), Designing in a Social Context: Situating Design in a Human-Centered, Social World Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17725

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