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Framing Design Projects in Engineering: Constructing an Effective Problem Statement

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2021 Illinois-Indiana Regional Conference



Publication Date

April 16, 2021

Start Date

April 16, 2021

End Date

April 17, 2021

Conference Session

Posters and Workshops

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Workshops and Posters

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Alexander Pagano University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

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Alex Pagano is a PhD student studying engineering design. His work is focused on the early phases of design and the use of human-centered design or design thinking as a teaching tool. Alex holds a BS in Materials Science and Engineering from University of Arizona and a MS in Mechanical Science and Engineering from University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign.

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Saadeddine Shehab University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

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A Postdoc Research Associate at the Siebel Center for Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign. He conducts research that informs the design and implementation of curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development in order to facilitate the teaching and learning of Human-Centered Design (HCD) in formal and informal learning environments. His research interests focused on the role of the teacher in orchestrating collaborative problem solving activities in STEM classrooms.

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Design projects are very important for engineering students as they give them the opportunity to practice and develop skills that are needed to effectively address open-ended problems. The implementation of these projects is supported by learning theories such as experiential learning and constructivism. Many research studies provide empirical evidence that demonstrate the positive impact of such projects on students’ learning. Nonetheless, designing and implementing these projects within the boundaries of an engineering course is challenging, especially when the goal is to engage students in collaboration to apply the course concepts in solving a real-life problem using a human-centered approach. This workshop aims to facilitate the exchange of frameworks, strategies and tools that can support the participants in setting up design projects in a way that fosters effective, collaborative learning of course content, using human-centered design approaches. Specifically, the workshop will focus on assisting participants in constructing problem statements for design projects in engineering courses. These statements will intentionally encourage students’ collaboration on one hand; on the other hand, they will guide students through the problem solving process without presuming specific solutions. Members from a newly established Design Center at a large Midwestern University will lead the workshop. The presenters will start with an open forum to explore the participants’ approaches to creating and setting up design projects in engineering courses. Building on the participants’ contributions, the presenters will facilitate discussions around the characteristics of effective problem statements in design projects. Next, the presenters will share their methodology for constructing problem statements that can foster students’ collaborative learning of the engineering concepts using human-centered design approaches. This methodology asks instructors to identify the intended learning outcomes for the design project, then work backwards to find realistic scenarios in which the knowledge, skills, abilities of the course are relevant in this design context. This is accomplished through a series of questions which promote the systematic consideration of the design space and associated design practices. Moreover, this methodology urges instructors to identify instances when students need to build joint problem spaces to co-construct knowledge and embed explicit prompts in the problem statement to encourage students to participate in these collaborative practices as they work on the project. The presenters will engage participants in small-group activities that help them experience and reflect on this methodology. By the end of this workshop, participants should have a more informed, systematic approach to properly construct a problem statement for a design project that encourages and fosters collaboration among students while providing a sense of guidance to the problem solving process.

Pagano, A., & Shehab, S. (2021, April), Framing Design Projects in Engineering: Constructing an Effective Problem Statement Paper presented at 2021 Illinois-Indiana Regional Conference, Virtual. 10.18260/1-2--38266

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