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Engineering For Everyone: Charging Students With The Task Of Designing Creative Solutions To The Problem Of Technology Literacy

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Installing & Assessing Technology Literacy Courses

Tagged Division

Technological Literacy Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.567.1 - 11.567.20



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Paper Authors


Susan Voss Smith College

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Susan Voss is an Assistant Professor in the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College. She teaches courses in the areas of Circuits, Signals and Systems, DSP, Neuroengineering, and Introduction to Engineering. Her research focuses on bioengineering of the auditory system.

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Borjana Mikic Smith College

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Borjana Mikic is an Associate Professor in the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College. She teaches courses in Strength of Materials, Failure Analysis, Skeletal Biomechanics, and Introduction to Engineering. Her research focuses on skeletal biomechanics.

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

Engineering for Everyone: Charging Students with the Task of Designing Creative Solutions to the Problem of Technology Literacy

Introduction The first year Introduction to Engineering course at Smith College, “EGR100: Engineering for Everyone,” is designed to be accessible to all students, regardless of background, yet it also serves as the foundation for students who choose to major in Engineering Science. In this course, students are introduced to the engineering design process via “mini-projects” that include mechanical dissections and/or design challenges, as well as a final team-based design project in which they are asked to design an approach to the problem of technology literacy on the Smith campus. In addition, each student completes a thirty hour machine shop module in which she learns how to use all major tools in the shop in the fabrication of her own hand-held tool (a combination hammer and screwdriver). Accompanying these design activities and related discussions on teamwork and creativity are a set of readings and discussions on the philosophical aspects of engineering as a profession in service to humanity and the impact of technology on society [1-5]. Each student writes and revises (twice) a narrative essay in which she explores her evolving sense of what engineering is, as well as how engineering may or may not be an appropriate vehicle for her to impact society in a way that has personal meaning within the framework of her own goals and values [6]. In the present paper, we discuss the implementation and outcomes of the Technology Literacy design project within the context of the Engineering for Everyone course at Smith College.

Background Technology Literacy, broadly defined by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), encompasses the three dimensions of (1) knowledge about technology; (2) ways of thinking and acting in relation to technology; and (3) basic mathematical and “hands-on” capabilities utilizing technology [7]. According to the NAE’s Committee on Technology Literacy, a technologically literate person should be able to recognize technology as “the entire system of people and organizations, knowledge, processes and devices that go into creating and operating technological artifacts, as well as the artifacts themselves” [8]. Ultimately, “in a world permeated by technology, an individual can function more effectively if he or she is familiar with and has a basic understanding of technology” [9].

The imperative to improve technology literacy in the United States stems from the recognition that our society is becoming increasingly dependent on technology, yet the level of understanding of technology among adults its quite poor [10]. As our reliance on technology increases, so does the need for informed policy-makers and individual members of the voting public who are called upon to make technological choices for themselves and others. There is a particular imperative to improve the technological literacy of women and racial and ethnic minorities as a means towards greater empowerment of these historically under-represented groups within science and engineering in particular, as well as within society as a whole.

As the first and only ABET-accredited engineering program at an all women’s college in the U.S., and one of only a handful at a liberal arts institution, the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College is uniquely positioned to play a role in improving technology literacy among

Voss, S., & Mikic, B. (2006, June), Engineering For Everyone: Charging Students With The Task Of Designing Creative Solutions To The Problem Of Technology Literacy Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--323

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