Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Cooperative and Experiential Education
Through a first semester course we gave incoming freshman a multidisciplinary experiential learning opportunity that introduced them to the design thinking (DT) process. We did this by creating a course that was a collaboration between the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), the Department of Geography in the Maxwell School of Public Citizenship, and the City of Syracuse’s Office of Innovation looking at the aging sewer and storm water system. We found there was mutual benefit in engaging in a collaborative process in which the students used their engineering skills (prototype, test, collect data and analyze a real world problem) and the city was provided actionable data. This course suggests a model in which the DT process can be taught in experiential learning settings that are collaborative with local municipalities and introduce the students to aging city infrastructure problems in the United States. We believe it is critical to begin tying in the real world experiences in the engineering learning process and provide a design process starting in the freshman year.
The specific problem we were trying to address was three fold: first to understand if freshman engineering students could generate real world actionable infrastructure data for the municipality, secondly could they do this in a way that introduced them to DT process using empathy as a starting point, and thirdly could they work in multidisciplinary teams and engage in a collaborative process with multiple partners. The specific problem the students addressed was measuring and mapping the aging sewer and storm water infrastructure in the Eastwood neighborhood of Syracuse, New York.
The class consisted of 51 incoming freshman honors students from across the ECS were formed into 12 multidisciplinary teams. They were instructed in the DT process starting with empathizing and considering the ethical considerations of the end-users (residents of the Eastwood neighborhood) and stakeholders which included the City of Syracuse, the City of Syracuse’s Office of Innovation, Onondaga County Department of Water Environment Protection (WEP), and the Maxwell School of Public Citizenship. The city and WEP provide instruction of the historical and current state of the neighborhood resident’s flooded basements and streets, aging infrastructure, and use of GPS measurement equipment. The students then engaged in discussing, empathizing, and considering the ethical implications faced by city residents with an aging sewer and storm water infrastructure. Students created prototype tools, did field measurements and then participated in class reflections on team dynamics, prototype tool effectiveness and measurement methodologies.
The students provided actionable data to the city in the form of an accurate GPS maps and statistics of 80% of the Eastwood neighborhood infrastructure. They engaged in dialogue with the neighborhood residents and were able to empathize with the stakeholders and end-users. The implications of this course are that there are mutually beneficial partnerships that could be formed between engineering colleges and municipalities across the country looking at aging infrastructure. These partnerships have the potential to engage students in learning about a challenging engineering problem we face in the 21st century.
Povinelli, M. J., & Robinson, J. A. (2018, June), Integrating Design Thinking into an Experiential Learning Course for Freshman Engineering Students Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30681
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