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Interdisciplinary Pedagogy for Pervasive Computing Design Processes: An Evaluative Analysis

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Assessment and Impact

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.830.1 - 25.830.16



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Paper Authors


Lisa D. McNair Virginia Tech

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Lisa McNair is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech where she serves as Assistant Department Head for Graduate Education and co-directs the Virginia Tech Engineering Communication Center. Her research includes interdisciplinary collaboration, communication studies, identity theory, and reflective practice. Projects supported by the National Science Foundation include: interdisciplinary pedagogy for pervasive computing design, writing across the curriculum in statics courses, and a CAREER award to explore the use of e-portfolios to promote professional identity and reflective practice. Her teaching emphasizes the roles of engineers as communicators and educators, the foundations and evolution of the engineering education discipline, assessment methods, and evaluating communication in engineering.

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Kahyun Kim Virginia Tech


Jason Forsyth Virginia Tech

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Jason Forsyth is a doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering.

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Ed Dorsa Virginia Tech

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Thomas Martin Virginia Tech


Eloise Coupey Virginia Tech

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Eloise Coupey is an Associate Professor and Assistant Department Head in the marketing department of the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech. She has been at Virginia Tech since 1994. Coupey received a doctorate in business administration from Duke University, and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University.

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Interdisciplinary Design of Pervasive ComputingDeveloping interactive products that are desirable, user-centered, and technically feasible requiresinterdisciplinary expertise and effective interaction across multiple disciplines. From an interdisciplinarydesign class that brings together students from industrial design, computer engineering, and marketing,we present three hands-on, discipline-specific exercises designed to remove disciplinary barriers andpromote cross-disciplinary appreciation.Each of the three exercises were based in one of the participating disciplines and led by an instructor fromthat discipline. However, all students participated in each exercise in order to gain not expertise, butrather insight and perspective on other disciplinary roles in the design collaboration. First, an industrialdesign exercise on sketching was conducted to introduce an effective means to rapidly convey ideas.Thumbnail sketching exercises that gave students 20 seconds to draw a prompt given by the instructorshowed that everyone could convey an idea regardless of aesthetic talent. Second, a marketing exercise ondesigning product boxes was conducted to help students capture the attention of intended users andconvey the values of the product. Guided by a marketing instructor and marketing students, the wholeclass learned to consider how their products would be presented and accepted by target users. Finally, acomputer engineering exercise was conducted to heighten awareness of pervasive computing products,which must sense and respond to the physical world. Led by computer engineering instructor andstudents, an ArudinoTM prototyping exercise was used to introduce non-ECE students to programmingand provided “User Friendly Datasheets” to familiarize them with the abilities that each sensor provided.This exercise allowed students to learn technical aspects of the product design.The impact of these exercises was examined through the theoretical lens of Boix-Mansilla’s construct ofassessing interdisciplinarity, specifically focusing on disciplinary grounding, integrative leverage, andcritical stance. Using transcripts of in-class team conversations as well as analysis of final products,results indicate that the interdisciplinary exercises achieved two outcomes: 1) students gained newperspectives from other disciplines, and 2) students performed as experts in their home disciplines.

McNair, L. D., & Kim, K., & Forsyth, J., & Dorsa, E., & Martin, T., & Coupey, E. (2012, June), Interdisciplinary Pedagogy for Pervasive Computing Design Processes: An Evaluative Analysis Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21587

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