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Engaging Students in Engineering Design through Low-vision Simulations

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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

Understanding Student Development in Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Samantha Paige Moorzitz The College of New Jersey

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Samantha Moorzitz is currently an undergraduate student at The College of New Jersey majoring in Technology and Engineering Education. She will be graduating in May 2019. Her research focus is on human centered design and vision impairments.

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Manuel Alejandro Figueroa The College of New Jersey

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Dr. Manuel Figueroa is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering at The College of New Jersey. He teaches a variety of engineering content courses in the Department of Integrative STEM program to prepare pre-service teachers to become K-12 technology and engineering educators. His research involves engaging college students in human centered design and improving creativity. He also develops nanotechnology based lessons that integrate the STEM disciplines.

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One of the many goals of an introductory engineering design course is to engage students in the engineering design process. Many introductory design projects practice skills for specific engineering disciplines (for example, solar powered cars for electrical engineering, egg drop for biomedical engineering, bridges for civil engineering) but fail at captivating the interest of all students. If design teams are not engaged in the project, then oftentimes the team will quickly gravitate to a final solution without deeply understanding the nature of the problem. A human centered design problem can be a more effective approach at engaging students in a design activity because it can lead students to build empathy for their target users or client(s). In addition, the effectiveness of a design solution will improve when design teams intimately understand the problem.

In four sections of an introductory engineering design course at [Institution], students were asked to design a product to make a freshman dorm room more accessible for students with vision impairments. To improve engagement, students participated in a low vision simulation to experience what it feels like to have a vision impairment. The class followed the steps of a human centered design approach: research, participation in a low vision simulation, development of multiple solutions, evaluation, building a scale model of the dorm room and their product, and delivering a final presentation. To measure the effect of empathy, the low vision simulation was changed in each of the four course sections: 1) blindfolds only, 2) low vision goggles and blindfolds, 3) low vision goggles, blindfolds and a training session about vision impairments, 4) low vision goggles, blindfolds, a training session and an interview with a blind student.

The presentation will discuss how the final prototypes, guided by the human centered design approach, were affected by the low vision intervention used in each section. Design solutions were evaluated using a design rubric. Student’s reflections were analyzed qualitatively and revealed how the low vision simulators and training sessions added a level of engagement to the project.

This study confirms previous research that using blindfolds alone does not create the realistic experience of being blind and strengthens misconceptions about the vision impaired. Student misconceptions were apparent not only in their reflections but also in their final designs. The complexity of the low vision simulation did not seem to correlate with the quality of the design. However, there were design features that appeared more often when students performed an interview with a blind person. Recommendations for properly constructing human centered design activities with experiential simulations will be discussed and how it can result in student engagement.

Moorzitz, S. P., & Figueroa, M. A. (2018, June), Engaging Students in Engineering Design through Low-vision Simulations Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30398

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