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Student perceptions of the societal linkages of engineering innovation

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 6

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Paper Authors


Tua Bjorklund

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Dr. Tua Björklund is an Assistant Professor at Aalto University School of Engineering and one of the co-founders of Aalto Design Factory, a multidisciplinary experimentation platform ( Having grown into a network of over 35 platforms across the globe, the Design Factory leverages design approaches to promote innovation across disciplines and academia and industry alike. Dr. Björklund leads a multidisciplinary team investigating innovation practices in engineering, design and entrepreneurship.

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Raimo Vepsäläinen

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Raimo Vepsäläinen is an M.Sc. student in Mechanical Engineering at Aalto University School of Engineering, Finland, and he is currently finishing his thesis "The influence of contextual enablers and challenges in business-to-business product development projects". He is majoring in Product Development with a minor in Mechatronics. Raimo’s areas of interests are product development and product management.

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Vikki Eriksson Aalto-yliopisto/Elektroniikan, tietoliikenteen

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Vikki is a postdoctoral researcher and educationalist, focusing on contexts and theories that influence modern design practice. As an avid advocate of designerly thinking, she consults and develops practical framework for the development of services and the use of service design methods in research and the traditional design process. She is currently exploring the role of creative problem solving and collaboration within innovation ecosystems. Her research interests include user experience, speculative design and future studies, design for sustainability (social, environmental, business and civic) and design for radical innovation.

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Senni Kirjavainen

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Senni Kirjavainen is a Master of Arts doing research on product development and creativity.

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Holistic sustainability is complex and multifaceted; thus, engineering education should prepare the future engineers to understand and consider a range of sustainability dimensions in their work across different fields of engineering applications. Indeed, efforts have been made worldwide to better integrate sustainability into engineering curricula, but relatively few studies have looked into the effectiveness of such efforts. The present study examines how master’s level students, having already completed a bachelor’s degree in engineering, understand and perceive different types of impact and influences on engineering innovation. Specifically, we examine student perceptions on political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal (PESTEL) connections of four real-world engineering innovation cases. The 115 students that participated in the study identified 794 political, economic, societal, technological, environmental and legal interconnections relative to the four innovation cases. We saw that students more readily identified positive than negative connections (526 vs 214 connections) and influences on the case rather than by the case on these dimensions (539 vs 249 connections). New technology development and artificial intelligence were the most common factors identified as influencing the further development of the engineering opportunity, whereas environmental benefits in recycling and resource usage were the most common effects identified by the cases on their surrounding ecosystems. Noted technological and environmental connections also tended to be more specific than those related to economic, social, political, and legal considerations. None of the 102 students noting technological connections identified any potential negative effects that the engineering innovation might have in the realm of technology, and in general, noting potential or actualized negative impacts was rare in the responses.

Taken together, the results highlight the need to further support examining potential adverse effects of engineering innovation, broadening the scope of considerations from intentional design targets to possible unintentional effects. On the other hand, the results suggest that while environmental considerations are already fairly detailed, more support may be needed to develop engineering “literacy” in other societal arenas, as well as establish collaborative practices to leverage experts in other arenas already in the initial scoping of engineering innovation opportunities to ensure a diverse range of impact and influence are taken into consideration.

Bjorklund, T., & Vepsäläinen, R., & Eriksson, V., & Kirjavainen, S. (2022, August), Student perceptions of the societal linkages of engineering innovation Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. 10.18260/1-2--40749

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