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Implementing Social Justice Projects in Thermal System and Mechanical Design Courses

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Working Against Unjust Social Forces

Tagged Divisions

Equity and Culture & Social Justice in Education

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

11

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37303

Download Count

15

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Paper Authors

biography

Lauren Anne Cooper California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

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Lauren Cooper earned her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering with a research emphasis in Engineering Education from University of Colorado Boulder. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Her research interests include project-based learning, student motivation, human-centered design, and the role of empathy in engineering teaching and learning.

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biography

Jennifer Mott California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

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Jennifer Mott earned her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Her research interests include Thermal Comfort, using Team Based Learning in engineering courses and improving teaching/learning for engineering students.

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Abstract

This work-in-progress paper describes a curricular intervention designed to incorporate various topics and assignments related to social justice into a thermal systems design course and a mechanical systems design course, both taught in the mechanical engineering department at a large, public institution on the west coast. Specifically, the two instructors (and paper authors) are adapting material from Dr. Donna Riley’s “Engineering Thermodynamics and 21st Century Energy Problems: A Textbook Companion for Student Engagement.” (2012) The curriculum intervention is in direct response to some students and faculty within our department who have recently called for a broader engineering curriculum, within (not separate from) their mechanical engineering courses. By making issues of social justice within core engineering courses explicit, we are hoping to 1) engage students in the discovery that issues such as energy policy, sustainability, mining practices, bias in design, etc. are not separate from engineering practice, 2) disrupt the social/technical dualism present in engineering curriculum that often discourages engineering students from learning about and participating in social justice issues and discussions, and 3) empower students to learn how they can work towards social justice in ways that support their professional development and career plans.

This paper will discuss and describe the six modules developed and implemented in the two courses, rubrics and assessment tools used, students’ reactions to the modules, and barriers to implementation. Additionally, we will present our preliminary research results. In each class, we are administering a pre/post survey to measure students’ gains in knowledge and attitudes about social justice topics/impact in engineering, as well as relevant demographic and background information. Survey items were taken directly from the “Social Justice Survey,” a validated instrument designed to assess favorable attitudes toward intentions to engage in social action. We will also share the emergent themes from our preliminary qualitative analysis, based on data gathered from course assignments and focus groups held with students in each class.

Cooper, L. A., & Mott, J. (2021, July), Implementing Social Justice Projects in Thermal System and Mechanical Design Courses Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37303

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