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Intersections of Design Thinking and Perceptions of Success for Electrical, Computer, and Software Engineering Students

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Curricular Advancements in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Sarah Rodriguez Iowa State University Orcid 16x16

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Sarah Rodriguez, PhD, is an assistant professor of Higher Education at Iowa State University. Dr. Rodriguez’s research addresses issues of equity, access, and retention for Latina/o students in the higher education pipeline, with a focus on the intersections of gender and race/ethnicity for Latinas in STEM. She has experience coordinating large-scale interdisciplinary research projects focused on engineering and other STEM disciplines which have been sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dr. Rodriguez has also worked with the project Engaging Latino Students for Transfer and College Completion a national initiative focused on helping institutions strengthen Latina/o student engagement, transfer, and college completion. She has also served as a New Mathways Project Mentorship Program Coach for the Charles A. Dana Center, supporting college implementation of multiple mathematics pathways, acceleration to complete college level math courses quickly, and intentional use of strategies. Dr. Rodriguez has presented at conferences at the national, regional, and local levels and authored journal articles, book chapters, policy briefs, and other publications on Latina/o student success.

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Erin E. Doran Iowa State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Erin Doran is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at Iowa State University.

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Paul S. Hengesteg Iowa State University

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Paul Hengesteg is a doctoral student in higher education administration at Iowa State University.

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Engineering design thinking has become an important part of the educational discussion for both researchers and practitioners. Colleges and universities seek to graduate engineering students who can engage in the complex nature of combining both technical performance with design thinking skills. Prior research has shown that design thinking can be a solution for solving complicated technical and social issues in a holistic, adaptive way. However, little is known about how students make sense of their design thinking experiences and reconcile that into their perceptions of what it means to be a successful engineer. As part of a five-year National Science Foundation REvolutionizing Engineering and Computer Science Departments (NSF-RED) grant, this study highlights the experiences of students engaged in a course which has been redesigned to enhance student development through design thinking pedagogy.

This case study sought to understand how electrical, computer, and software engineering students engage with design thinking and how that engagement shapes their perceptions of what success looks like. The case study was informed through observations of lecture and lab classroom contexts, interviews with students, and a review of relevant course documents. Participants met the following criteria: (a) were over the age of 18, (b) majoring in CES engineering, and (c) were currently enrolled in one of two courses currently undergoing redesign: a second-year electrical engineering course called Circuits or a second-year computer engineering course called Embedded Systems.

Preliminary findings reveal that students engaged in the design thinking course described a disconnect between design thinking elements of the course and their perceptions of what it meant to be a successful electrical, computer, or software engineer. Although design thinking concepts focused on empathy-building and customer needs, it was often difficult for engineering students to see beyond the technical content of their course and conceptualize elements of design thinking as essential to their successful performance as engineers. This study bears significance to practitioners and researchers interested in (re)designing curriculum to meet the growing needs of innovation for today’s customer’s. Implications for policy and practice will be discussed to enhance the way that engineering programs, curricula, and workforce training are created.

Rodriguez, S., & Doran, E. E., & Hengesteg, P. S. (2019, June), Intersections of Design Thinking and Perceptions of Success for Electrical, Computer, and Software Engineering Students Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33010

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