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Learning about Learning and Engineering: Engineers, Students, and Educators Co-Design Challenges for a Science Center

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

DEED Melange

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.849.1 - 24.849.29

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Paper Authors


Jennifer Wang University of California, Berkeley

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Jennifer Wang is a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Group in Science and Mathematics Education, focusing on Engineering Education at the University of California, Berkeley. She also obtained her B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Berkeley. Her primary interest is in informal learning environments and educational technologies. She currently conducts research with the Lawrence Hall of Science on their engineering exhibits and works to improve the facilitation and design of the exhibits. Her research focuses on how science center visitors engage and tinker at engineering activities and the impacts of these open-ended tinkering activities in terms of STEM learning and engineering understanding.

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Alice Merner Agogino University of California, Berkeley

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Alice M. Agogino is the Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes Professor of Mechanical Engineering and affliated faculty at the Haas School of Business in their Operations and Information Technology Management Group. She directs the Berkeley Expert Systems Technology /Berkeley Energy and Sustainable Technologies (BEST) Laboratories and is a member of the Berkeley Institute of Design. She served as Chair of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate in 2005-06, having served as Vice Chair during the 2004-05 academic year. She has served in a number of other administrative positions at UC Berkeley including Associate Dean of Engineering and Faculty Assistant to the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost in Educational Development and Technology. She also served as Director for Synthesis, an NSF-sponsored coalition of eight universities with the goal of reforming undergraduate engineering education, and continues as PI for the NEEDS ( and the ( digital libraries of courseware in science, mathematics, engineering and technology. She has supervised 91 MS projects/theses, 38 doctoral dissertations and numerous undergraduate researchers.

Dr. Agogino is engaged in a number of collaborative projects with industry. Prior to joining the faculty at UC Berkeley, she worked in industry for Dow Chemical, General Electric and SRI International. Her research interests include: Community-based design; Sustainable engineering, Intelligent learning systems; information retrieval and data mining; multiobjective and strategic product design; nonlinear optimization; probabilistic modeling; intelligent control and manufacturing; sensor validation, fusion and diagnostics; wireless sensor networks; multimedia and computer-aided design; design databases; design theory and methods; MEMS synthesis and computer-aided design; artificial intelligence and decision and expert systems; and gender/ethnic equity. Dr. Agogino has authored over two hundred peer-reviewed publications in these subject areas. She is a member of AAAI, AAAS, ASEE, ASME, AWIS, NAE and SWE and served as Chair of the AAAS section on Engineering (2001-2002). She serves on the editorial board of three professional journals and has provided service on a number of governmental, professional, and industry advisory committees, including the NSF Advisory Committee for Engineering, Engineering Directorate, (1991-96, Chair 1996-97); Guidance Committee of the "Removing Barriers to Collaborative Research" project of the National Research Council (NRC) Government-University-Industry Roundtable (1997-98); NRC Committee on "Standards for Technology Education," (1997-98); National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Academic Advisory Board (1998-2002); NAE "Engineering of the Year 2020" Planning/Steering Committee (Co-Chair of Planning, 1999-2000; Member of Steering; 2002-2005) and Executive Committeee, Digital Media Innovation Initiative, University of California System (2000-2001), Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory of the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST; 2004-2005), JPL/Cal Tech Engineering Advisory Board (2003-2005), National Academies Board on Science Education (BOSE, 2005-2007) and the Women in Academic Science Engineering Committee of the National Academies Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP; 2005-2010). She has served on a number of university advisory boards: CMU, MIT, KAUST and Harvard/Radcliffe.

Dr. Agogino received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of New Mexico (1975), M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering (1978) from the University of California at Berkeley and Ph.D. from the Department of Engineering-Economic Systems at Stanford University (1984). She received an NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award in 1985; Pi Tau Sigma Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1986; Ralph R. Teetor Educator Award in 1987; SME Young Manufacturing Engineer of the Year Award in 1987/88; Best Paper Award (with S. Bradley) at the ASME-Design, Theory and Methods Conference in 1990/91; Best Paper Award at the AI Applications '92 Conference; Most Outstanding Alumnus at the University of New Mexico in 1992; elected AAAS Fellow in 1994; Best Paper Award (with Andy Dong) at the Artificial Intelligence in Design'96 Conference (with Robert Paasch); elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1997; Best Paper Award (with Ann McKenna) at IEEE/ASEE FIE'97; John Wiley & Sons Premier Award for Quality Courseware (with David Yu) in 1997; Best Overall Paper Award at ASEE '98 (with Ann McKenna); IEEE Helen Plants Award for "Best Non-Traditional Session" at the 1998 IEEE/ASEE Frontiers in Engineering Education Conference; and First Runner-up for the Novel Smart Engineering System Design Award (with Ningning Zhou, Bo Zhu and Kris Pister) in 2001; Fellow, Association of Women in Science, 2003; NSF Director's Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars, 2004; ASME Xerox Best Paper Award (with Shuang Song), 2004; IEEE Robotics & Automation Society Best Paper Award at the Symposium of Micro- and Nano-Mechatronics for Information-based Society (with R. Kamalian and Y. Zhang), 2005; elected Fellow of ASME, 2005; Chancellor's Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence, 2006; Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring, Mechanical Engineering Graduate Student Council, 2007; Chancellor's Awards for Public Service:CARES (Community Assessment for Renewable Energy and Sustainability), 2010; Best Note Honorable Mention, (with Kimiko Ryokai, Lora Oehlberg and Michael Manoochehri) ACM CHI (Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems), 2011; Professor of the Year, UC Berkeley Pi Tau Sigma, 2011; Academy of Distinguished Alumni, University of New Mexico, 2012; and Leon Gaster Award for Lighting Technology (with Yao-Jung Wen), 2012; AAAS Lifetime Mentoring Award, 2012-13; and Reviewers' Favorite Award at the 2013 International Conference on Engineering Design (with E.Y. Kim, V. S. Kocsik, C.E. Basnage).

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Engineers, Students, and Educators Co-Design Learning Challenges for a Science CenterTo understand how to communicate and engage science center visitors in authentic engineering,we study a unique cross-community collaboration involving educators, engineers from industry,and engineering students to co-design engineering learning activities. We present two casestudies of the design processes with cross-community teams to create and implement designchallenges for a science center’s drop-in engineering tinkering program. Each team collaboratedover a semester to research, brainstorm, design, develop, implement, and refine designchallenges that represent authentic design practices of the team’s industry engineers. The firstteam involved engineering students from an education outreach club along with engineers from asoftware company, and the second team involved engineering students from a product designcourse along with engineers from a sound reinforcement company.Qualitative methods were used to study the teams through pre- and post-surveys; observationsvia video-recording and field notes; and artifacts (e.g. notebooks, write-ups, and presentations).Pre- and post-survey questions covered participants’ background, perceptions of engineering,expectations and contributions, reflections on implementation with visitors, and perceived impactof the experience on themselves as engineers. Observations were conducted during all meetingsof students and engineers. Data from artifacts were triangulated with the survey and meetingdata to create progressions of the design processes, focusing on the development of criteria forthe design challenges, the ideation processes, and the teams’ beliefs about engineering.Following a human-centered design approach, the students and educators first observed similaractivities at other museums and worked with the industry sponsors to identify key features of thedesign challenge. The results indicate that the teams developed explicit and implicit criteria thatguided the design of their challenges, where explicit criteria were identified as features on whichthe whole team agreed and implicit criteria were mentioned in meetings or notebooks, especiallywhile observing visitors in the science center program. In particular, the explicit criteriareflected the general goals of the stakeholders (engineering companies and the science center).On the other hand, the implicit criteria grew to acknowledge visitor learning as a mutual learningexperience, rather than a one-way communication (Davies, 2008), also reflected in the teams’evolving goals. A key takeaway is that in designing these activities, it is important to involve thedesigners with the learners in-situ to help develop these important implicit criteria. The processof identifying criteria also helped to create collective ownership of goals (Bronstein, 2003) thatfostered a smooth and dissent-free ideation process, as the final ideas were selected and refinedwith the agreed-upon criteria.Finally, the teams believed that engineering involves much more than technical skills orintellectual ability, contrary to popular public conceptions of engineering. In the surveys,students and engineers noted that the attributes of good engineers were mostly non-technical,including hardworking, determination, curiosity, willingness to learn, and creativity.Interestingly, no engineers named technical skills as primary differentiators. These attributesalign with Dweck’s (2006) theories of malleable intelligence and growth mindset, underscoringthe need to change the public perception of engineering to show its accessibility.ReferencesBronstein, L. R. (2003). A model for interdisciplinary collaboration. Social Work,48(3), 297-306.Davies, S. R. (2008). Constructing Communication: Talking to Scientists About Talking to the Public. Science Communication, 29(4), 413-434.Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. First Edition. New York, NY: Random House.  

Wang, J., & Agogino, A. M. (2014, June), Learning about Learning and Engineering: Engineers, Students, and Educators Co-Design Challenges for a Science Center Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana.

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