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Our Guiding Star: Engineering Design. But Where Is It Guiding Us?

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Robyn Paul University of Calgary Orcid 16x16

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Robyn Paul is a second-year PhD student at the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary. Her work is looking at using best practices from ecofeminism to deconstruct the culture of engineering education and bring awareness to engineering’s hidden curriculum. Robyn also has a master’s degree in engineering education where she studied engineering leadership education, and she has managed the engineering accreditation process for three years at her University.

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Laleh Behjat P.Eng. University of Calgary

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Dr. Laleh Behjat is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Calgary. Her research interests include designing computer chips, electronic design automation and developing software for computer hardware. She has won several awards for her work on the development of software tools for computer engineering. In addition, Dr. Behjat has a passion for increasing the status of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Dr. Behjat was the recipient of the 2015 Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) Women in Engineering Champion Award.

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Bob Brennan P.Eng. University of Calgary

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Robert W. Brennan has been actively involved in a wide range of national and international design education initiatives over the past 12 years. He has served on the Canadian Design Engineering Network (CDEN) steering committee, chaired the organizing committee for the second CDEN conference (2004), chaired the Schulich School of Engineering's first Engineering Education Summit (2007), served as an organizing committee member for the CIRP International Design Seminar (2006), and is the current American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) campus representative for the University of Calgary. Dr. Brennan also served as one of the founding members of the Engineering Graduate Attributes Development (EGAD) group, and has been an active participant and contributor to both Canadian and international engineering education conferences since 2001. He has published papers in Learning and Individual Differences, the Australasian Journal of Engineering Education, the International Journal of Quality Assurance in Engineering and Technology Education, and Advances in Engineering Education; and has published over 30 conference papers in national and international engineering education conferences. These papers are the result of his collaborations with colleagues from the Schulich School of Engineering and the Department of Psychology at the University of Calgary, as well as colleagues from the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, Queen’s University, the University of Saskatchewan, and the University of Manitoba.

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As our society tackles the grand challenges, diversity in science and engineering is more important than ever. Gender diverse teams lead to better problem solving in science [1] and increased cultural diversity leads to innovation gains in engineering and design sectors [2]. However, much of the gender research in engineering has an implicit liberal feminism theoretical foundation, where the goal is to ensure equal rights, opportunities, and treatment of women [3]. We need to go beyond just getting more excluded identities in the room.

Over the last decade, there has been increasing research to understand and address the deeper and fundamental problems about the culture of engineering education and the engineering profession [4]. Researchers have critically questioned how the narratives within engineering education construct and define what is “engineering” [5]. It is evident we need to understand the embedded culture of engineering and how this presents a barrier to diversity. Specifically, this research will take a critical look at engineering design, and discourse used in publications on engineering design.

Many scholars see design as our guiding star where it is the foundation of engineering. However, the structured nature of the design process leaves little room for creativity in how design problems are approached. Design processes are generally structured by the “matrix of domination: white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, capitalism, and settler colonialism” [6, p. 2]. Thus, using a systematic literature review, I will review the top cited publications on engineering design from this century. I will use discourse analysis through poststructuralist feminist lens informed by the concept of gendered organizations, an approach modeled off Laura Parson’s critical analysis of STEM syllabi [7]. By looking at the discourse and language used in publications, my objective is to gain insight into underlying regulations, power, knowledge, and invisible inequalities [7, 8]. This research will provide new insight into the field of engineering education, growing and extending the work that other feminist engineering scholars have accomplished.

[1] Nielsen, M. W., Alegria, S., Börjeson, L., Etzkowitz, H., Falk-Krzesinski, H. J., Joshi, A., ... & Schiebinger, L. (2017). Opinion: Gender diversity leads to better science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(8), 1740-1742. [2] Niebuhr, A. (2010). Migration and innovation: Does cultural diversity matter for regional R&D activity? Papers in Regional Science, 89(3), 563-585. [3] Beddoes, K. (2011). Engineering education discourses on underrepresentation: Why problematization matters. International Journal of Engineering Education, 27(5), 1117. [4] Riley, D., Pawley, A. L., Tucker, J., & Catalano, G. D. (2009). Feminisms in engineering education: Transformative possibilities. National Women's Studies Association Journal, 21-40. [5] Pawley, A. L. (2009). Universalized narratives: Patterns in how faculty members define “engineering”. Journal of Engineering Education, 98(4), 309-319. [6] Costanza-Chock, S. (2018). Design Justice: Towards an Intersectional Feminist Framework for Design Theory and Practice. Proceedings of the Design Research Society 2018. [7] Parson, L. (2016). Are STEM syllabi gendered? A feminist critical discourse analysis. The Qualitative Report, 21(1), 102-116. [8] Lerman, S. (2009). Pedagogy, discourse, and identity. Mathematical relationships in education: Identities and participation, 147-155.

Paul, R., & Behjat, L., & Brennan, B. (2020, June), Our Guiding Star: Engineering Design. But Where Is It Guiding Us? Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35019

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