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Incorporating Design Thinking into the First-year Engineering Curriculum

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 7

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Mary Raber Michigan Technological University

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Mary Raber currently serves as Assistant Dean for Academic Programs in the Pavlis Honors College at Michigan Technological University. She also serves as co-Director of the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship and Director of the Global Leadership program. She received her BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Wayne State University and is currently working on her PhD at Michigan Technological University. Before joining MTU she held various engineering and management positions during a 15 year career in the automotive industry.

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Mary Fraley Michigan Technological University

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Mary Fraley is a Sr. Lecturer in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Technological University. Her research interests include online/blended learning methods, entrepreneurial mindset, and applying LEAN to the process of teaching and learning.

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Amber Kemppainen Michigan Technological University

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Ms. Kemppainen is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals. Her research interests include the improvement of STEM education, mental toughness, growth mindset, and online/blended learning methods.

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The goal of the common first-year engineering program at our university is to prepare students to succeed in upper level engineering curricula. This is achieved through the process of solving open-ended multidisciplinary engineering problems in an active, engaging, learning environment, while gaining exposure to different engineering majors and career options. The focus is the development of problem-solving, computational, and communication skills. Through active, collaborative teamwork, students apply engineering methods to “real world” problems. All students who matriculate in our engineering programs begin their first year completing two common fundamentals courses, ENG1101 (Engineering Analysis and Problem Solving) and ENG1102 (Engineering Modeling and Design). Approximately 1000 students enroll in these courses each year. Historically, in this course sequence, students work in teams to develop solutions to prescribed problems. In a pilot initiative for the Fall 2017 sections of ENG1102, our goal was to allow students the opportunity to self-identify problems they would like to address in an effort to expose them to concepts in innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial mindset. While there are a number of Innovation and Entrepreneurial (I&E) experiences available to our first-year engineering students, including pitch competitions, access to a makerspace and support resources through the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship, they are all extra-curricular in nature and require that individual students seek these opportunities of their own initiative. We believe that by directly introducing students to key I&E tools and methodologies in the first-year engineering courses, we can better foster and encourage an entrepreneurial mindset and better prepare students to take advantage of the available I&E opportunities. By exposing students to these tools early in their academic careers, we also hope to increase the pipeline of student inventors and innovators. For this pilot study, our approach was to integrate a series of instructional modules in Design-Thinking methodologies into the ENG1102 curriculum to help students: 1) employ empathy to identify problems of interest; 2) explore ideation techniques to generate innovative solutions, and 3) to practice low-resolution prototyping as a means to test their solutions, gather feedback and iterate on their designs. In this paper, we will share the results of our pilot initiative including assessment efforts to measure change in students’ curiosity & exploration, attitudes toward creativity, creative self-efficacy and creative identity, as well as feedback from the student participants.

Raber, M., & Fraley, M., & Kemppainen, A. (2018, June), Incorporating Design Thinking into the First-year Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30643

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