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Introducing Changemaking Engineering into an Operations Research Course: Some Unexpected Results

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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

IED Technical Session: Preparing Students for the Future

Tagged Division

Industrial Engineering

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Paper Authors


Rick Olson University of San Diego

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Rick T. Olson is Associate Dean in the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering at the University of San Diego. His research interests lay in engineering student persistence, and applied operations research. He is active in outreach activities targeting underrepresented populations and has received NSF funding to support U.S. military veterans, community college transfer students, and innovative engineering education. He has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, and M.S. in Industrial Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering with emphasis in Operations Research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Andrés Esteban Acero Universidad de los Andes

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Andrés Acero is a PhD Candidate of Engineering at Universidad de los Andes, Colombia. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree on Industrial Engineering from the same academic institution. His research interest lie in the area of applications of social justice, engineering education and systems science, ranging from theory to modelling to implementation. In recent years, he has focused on natural resources management, active learning and waste management on emergent economies. Andrés is an active member of Ingenieros sin Fronteras Colombia since 2012, and he had worked on several engineering projects with social impact. In addition, he has collaborated with researchers of the Laboratory of Cognition at Universidad de los Andes, particularly in decision-making processes and teamwork. He is co-founder of INTERACT, a research group on complex adaptive systems and social network analysis.

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Traditionally, engineering students are taught discipline-specific technical skills, with less emphasis on the contexts in which engineering is practiced, and little focus on critical examinations of assumptions within engineering practice. This model has resulted in engineers who are proficient at solving problems within traditional areas of practice, but who may be ill-prepared to assess the broader impact of their work, or to address new challenges. With funding from a National Science Foundation (NSF) IUSE/PFE REvolutionizing engineering and computer science Departments (RED) grant, our school is working to produce and disseminate a model for redefining the “engineering canon” with the goal of developing “Changemaking Engineers”. This revised canon will present technical skills within a contextual framework that includes humanitarian, sustainable, and social justice approaches. This broader perspective of engineering practice will produce graduates who can address a wider range of societal problems bringing new perspectives to traditional areas.

One of the strategies that we are using to achieve our goals is to infuse traditional engineering classes with new materials that address this changemaking theme. The goal is for students to develop the same fundamental skills that they currently learn, but to see how these skills can be applied to problems and situations that don’t appear in traditional text books. By placing the technical concepts in new contexts, students will learn to critically evaluate the impact of their work, and they will graduate with a better understanding of their potential to use engineering to create change.

In Fall 2017, changemaking content was added to the required deterministic operations research (OR) course taken by industrial and systems engineers at our university. This content included changes in the examples used in lectures, the addition of homework problems that included changemaking principles, and the development of two case studies that required students to apply OR to open-ended problems that promote social justice, sustainability, and humanitarian practice.

This paper will summarize the Fall 2017 offering of the course including a summary of the materials that were created and lessons learned during their development. Exemplar prompts for classroom discussion will be shared, and the transformation of problems found in traditional texts will be illustrated. And the development of one case will be discussed. Finally, the plans for revising the materials and making them available for others to use will be shared.

Olson, R., & Acero, A. E. (2018, June), Introducing Changemaking Engineering into an Operations Research Course: Some Unexpected Results Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30715

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