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Engineering Hope: Enhancing Quality of Life through Design Education

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Innovative Project-based Learning Practices in Manufacturing

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Page Count


Page Numbers

26.628.1 - 26.628.14



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Paper Authors


Lisa Karen Kenyon Grand Valley State University

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Dr. Kenyon is a pediatric physical therapist and Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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John Paul Farris Grand Valley State University

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John Farris joined the faculty at Grand Valley State University after a successful tenure as the chief product designer for a medical device manufacturer. His other significant industrial experience includes designing engine components for Caterpillar Inc. and consulting on the design of stationary fuel cell power generation units. His current research interests are design methods and medical technology. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island and his Bachelors and masters degrees from Lehigh University.

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Engineering Hope: Enhancing Quality of Life through Design EducationProviding engineering students with challenging yet meaningful product design experiences is critical inpreparing students for future work as professional engineers. Interprofessional design projects offerengineering students the opportunity to collaborate with students from other disciplines to addressreal-life problems that can only be solved by working together and learning from each other. This paperdescribes an innovative teaching approach through which engineering students and physical therapystudents came together to design and build a power mobility device that allows young children withsevere motor, cognitive, and communication deficits the opportunity to move and explore in a safe andeffective manner. To help the students from both professions to better understand the design problem,students participated in multiple hands-on activities with toddlers and preschoolers who were severelyinvolved. The students interacted with the parents of these children to learn about the challenges andneeds of this unique population. The students had to also learn to shed their professional silos and tocommunicate with each other in ways that facilitated solving the design problems together. Other keysto success in this project included the instructors (an engineer and a physical therapist) modelinginterprofessional collaboration, using a structured approach to enable students from both professions tomore fully understand the problem and to allow the engineering students to translate theirunderstanding into engineering specifications, and soliciting frequent feedback from variousstakeholders in the project including the parents and children during all stages of the design process.Based on student comments, this innovative teaching approach allowed the engineering students tolearn more than just the design process. The students appeared to benefit from stepping out of theircomfort zone to interact with and learn from children who have special needs. Being able to offer thesechildren a means by which to move and seeing the joy that this movement brought to these youngchildren helped the students to feel that they made a difference to improve the children’s quality of life.Through this process, the students were able to recognize that the design process can provide hope andmeaning to the lives of others.

Kenyon, L. K., & Farris, J. P. (2015, June), Engineering Hope: Enhancing Quality of Life through Design Education Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23966

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