June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Civil Engineering Education and Workforce Development Challenges
22.961.1 - 22.961.16
Introducing Systems Thinking to the Engineer of 2020Our program aims to have the engineer of 2020 become proficient in four pillar areas: leadership,innovation, global awareness, and systems thinking. Each pillar is introduced in three weeks in afreshman-level seminar and reinforced in half of a semester in a year-long sophomore-levelseminar. For the systems thinking pillar, students are expected to explain the advantages ofsystems thinking over a traditional linear or reductionist approach and apply tools used insystems thinking. In particular, students identify connections between subsystems with richpictures, explain relationships between subsystems with causal-loop diagrams, and sketch thebehavior over time of key variables in the system.In the first offerings of the classes, students applied systems thinking to the challenges ofproviding abundant clean water, renewable non-polluting energy, safe roads and bridges, accessto modern health care, sustainable agriculture and manufacturing, and protection from naturaland man-made disasters. In the freshman-level class, students concentrated on drawing the richpicture for one of these areas. In the sophomore-level class, students studied a specific problemrelated to these areas, such as the 2010 flooding around our campus and the massive traffic jamon China’s National Highway 110. The students explained the connections and relationshipsbetween engineering, social, business, political, environmental, cultural, and ethical aspects ofthe problems they studied. In written reports and oral presentations students discussed their richpictures, causal-loop diagrams, and behavior-over-time graphs and identified lessons learnedfrom the systems thinking approach.After the freshman-level class, students wrote reflections that indicated the discussion andactivities helped acquaint them with a previously unfamiliar topic. In the final presentations forthe sophomore-level class, students noted an appreciation for the importance—and sometimesdominance—of non-engineering factors in an engineering problem. We will describe the systemsthinking modules that we used in these two classes, relate them to other work on incorporatingsystems thinking in an engineering curriculum, summarize the lessons learned in using themodules, and recommend ways to improve them to achieve the learning outcomes moreeffectively.
Rehmann, C. R., & Rover, D. T., & Laingen, M., & Mickelson, S. K., & Brumm, T. J. (2011, June), Introducing Systems Thinking to the Engineer of 2020 Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18173
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