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Indigenous Innovators: Creating Collaborative Student-Engineer Innovation Teams between Tribal Colleges and Research Institutions

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

Analysis of Feedback Loops, Understanding the Impact of a LSAMP Scholar Program, Sustainable and Equitable Infrastructure, and Indigenous Innovators

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering Division(MIND)

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Paper Authors


Nicholas M. Bittner University of North Dakota

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Nick is currently a Biomedical engineering student at the University of North Dakota since graduating with a associates in engineering from Cankdeska Cikana Community College located on the Spirit Lake nation. Utilizing the innovation based learning model found in his new department, he is spear heading an effort connect the Tribal colleges and Universities to forge long lasting and productive relationships.

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Rebecca Kennedy University of North Dakota

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Rebecca is a student at University of North Dakota and an enrolled member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe.

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Elizabeth Parton University of North Dakota

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Elizabeth is currently attending the University of North Dakota to study Biomedical Engineering.

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Collaboration with a diverse team of individuals from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds is key when framing and solving complex engineering problems. Cross-institutional barriers, connectivity, work and family responsibilities, and loyalty to community of origin discourage participation on problem solving teams.

This paper talks about the recent collaborative experience between a 2-year degree tribal college and a 4 -year degree research college in North Dakota. The author of this paper, a student biomedical engineer, graduated from a tribal college, Cankadeska Cikana Community College (CCCC), and transferred to a State university, the University of North Dakota (UND).

UND Biomedical engineering program is based on innovation-based learning (IBL). In IBL, students work on a semester innovation project of their choosing. In this case, the student project selected was a new challenge style running limb prosthetic. The tribal college involved in this project was fabricating and load testing providing verification.

This work describes the contributing factors of the human and technical systems for achieving project success in this type of collaboration.

In regards to human factors, Tribal students bring a unique view from indigenous ways of knowing with powerful manufacturing skills and their strength to face challenging problems. IBL brings divergent thinking and safe-to-fail learning. Both systems value applied prototyping and demonstrations of learning through projects.

In regards to technical systems, the Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory at CCCC provided their state-of-the-art equipment including Selective laser sintering, INSTRON, and PA12. The Computational Research Center and the Biped Lab at UND provided 3D modeling, load simulation, and human testing capabilities.

Student and instructor interviews will be conducted at the end of the semester, both from CCCC and UND, to document the perspectives of the different stakeholders. This will include questions about developing and designing biomedical solutions.

A series of recommendations and lessons learned will be included based on the analysis of the interview responses and the collaborative project outcomes. The successful collaboration will be used in the future to grow this relationship further, TCU students from across different tribes will be involved in the future. These findings will be used to create two-plus-two programs that will streamline bachelor's degrees for transfer TCU students.

Bittner, N. M., & Kennedy, R., & Parton, E. (2023, June), Indigenous Innovators: Creating Collaborative Student-Engineer Innovation Teams between Tribal Colleges and Research Institutions Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland.

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