June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Women in Engineering
26.935.1 - 26.935.12
Including Universal Design in Engineering Courses to Attract Diverse StudentsResearch has shown that women and other under-represented groups are interested in usingtechnology in order to improve the world around them. For example, Margolis and Fisher (2002)found that women were interested in using computers in order to do something useful for society.Likewise, students with disabilities have demonstrated an interest in using design in order toimprove the experiences of individuals with disabilities (Blaser, Braitmayer, & Burgstahler2012). Teaching engineering students about universal design helps students develop skills thatallow them to improve the world around them. In doing so, it can help to attract a more diverseset of students to study engineering.Universal design (UD) is the process of designing products or environments to ensure that theyare usable by the widest audience possible, including audiences that are diverse with respect torace, gender, abilities, national origin, age, and other characteristics (Burgstahler 2008a). Aclassic example of universal design is a curb cut that allows a wide range of individuals to betteraccess sidewalks, including individuals using wheelchairs, pushing strollers, or pulling rollingsuitcases. Likewise, universally designing videos would call for them to be captioned in order tobe more usable to individuals with hearing impairments, non-native speakers of English, andviewers who are in noisy environments.Including universal design in engineering courses not only appeals to women and students withdisabilities, but also serves to ensure that the next generation of engineers is better prepared todesign products that are usable to the widest audience possible. The authors of this project areworking with engineering faculty nationwide to develop curricula that teach aspects of UD inengineering courses. This paper includes a variety of ways that faculty members have includedcurricula on UD in their engineering courses. Capstone or cornerstone engineering design classes are a natural fit for incorporating UD concepts into the engineering curriculum, challenging students to design for individuals of diverse backgrounds. UD can also be a valuable addition to other core engineering courses, such as evaluating the stability of devices for individuals of different sizes in statics or dynamics, creating design modifications for diverse users in CAD, or challenging students to redesign a portion of one of their lab activities to be accessible to students with disabilities.Moreover, it is important that courses are also universally designed in order to ensure that theyare accessible to the widest audience possible, including women, students with disabilities,under-represented minorities, and other under-represented groups. In order to ensure that coursesare universally designed, faculty should consider the class climate, their interactions withstudents and interactions among students, classrooms and products, delivery methods used,information technology, and assessments (Burgstahler 2008b). By providing an example of UDin action in the classroom, engineering faculty can make their courses accessible to a wideaudience and inspire students to do the same within their own engineering careers.ReferencesBlaser, B., Burgstahler, S., & Braitmayer, K. (2012). AccessDesign: A two-day workshop forstudents with disabilities exploring design careers, Journal of Postsecondary Education andDisability, 25(2), 197-201.Burgstahler, S. (2008a). Universal design in higher education. In Universal design in highereducation: From principles to practice (pp. 3-20). Boston: Harvard Education Press.Burgstahler, S. (2008b). Universal design of instruction: From principles to practice. InUniversal design in higher education: From principles to practice (pp. 23-44). Boston: HarvardEducation Press.Margolis, J. & Fisher, A. (2002). Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing. Cambridge,MA: MIT Press.
Blaser, B., & Steele, K. M., & Burgstahler, S. E. (2015, June), Including Universal Design in Engineering Courses to Attract Diverse Students Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24272
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