Asee peer logo

Negotiations and Play

Download Paper |


2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship and Innovation in First-Year Programs

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Curtis Abel Worcester Polytechnic Institute Orcid 16x16


Kristin Boudreau Worcester Polytechnic Institute

visit author page

Kristin Boudreau is the Paris Fletcher Distinguished Professor of Humanities and Head of the Department of Humanities and Arts at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. A scholar of nineteenth-century American literature, in recent years she has turned her attention to transforming engineering education by contextualizing engineering challenges in their historical, cultural, geographic and political settings. Recent publications in this field include “To See the World Anew: Learning Engineering Through a Humanistic Lens” in Engineering Studies 2015 and “A Game-Based Approach to Information Literacy and Engineering in Context” (with Laura Hanlan) in Proceedings of the Frontiers in Education Conference 2015. A classroom game she developed with students and colleagues at WPI, “Humanitarian Engineering Past and Present: Worcester’s Sewage Problem at the Turn of the Twentieth Century” was chosen by the National Academy of Engineering as an “Exemplary Engineering Ethics Activity” that prepares students for “ethical practice, research, or leadership in engineering.”

visit author page

Download Paper |


This paper describes a negotiations module within a role-playing engineering course set in nineteenth-century Worcester, Massachusetts. Our course, “Humanitarian Engineering Past & Present: Worcester, 1885,” is a first-year, general education course at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The course includes engineering content within a humanistic frame that makes it ideal for general education. The course puts students in the roles of actual people living in a turn-of-the-century industrial city in central Massachusetts. Students learn and practice engineering concepts (engineering design, stakeholder analyses, mass balance, sewage treatment, material properties and selection, sewage properties and conveyance, statics and stress, filtration and chemical precipitation) while playing the roles of engineers, industrialists, elected officials, workers, scientists, public health officials, inventors, and city residents. In this course we introduce innovation and entrepreneurial mindset to an audience of students who may not think they are interested in the subject. Our role-playing game-based approach is intended to attract students to entrepreneurial thinking as well as other disciplinary content they may not have considered important to solving engineering problems. This paper describes a negotiations module, where students learn about negotiations, typically a highly emotional activity we engage in several times a day to reach agreements with others. In this hands-on, active learning experience, teams negotiate an employment agreement between pipe fitters and the city’s engineering department. Each team learns how to prepare for the negotiation by exploring each other’s needs, interests, and positions. Then, the students negotiate and experience the challenges of reaching an agreement that satisfies both parties. Our assessment materials include the outcomes of the negotiations themselves (whether teams reached an agreement and whether they met their own requirements) as well as student reflective essays on the experience and what they learned. We present this course module as a case study that can be adapted in different classrooms.

Abel, C., & Boudreau, K. (2017, June), Negotiations and Play Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28700

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015