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Taking the Role of Others to Increase the Success Rates of Innovations

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Bernd Steffensen University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt Orcid 16x16

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Studied Administrative Sciences and Sociology at the Universities in Kiel and Bielefeld (Germany) as well as Lancaster (UK). Doctorate at the University of Bielefeld (1996). Worked from 1992-2000 with Academy for Technology Assessment in Baden-Wuerttemberg (Germany). Since 2000 professor for Technology Assessment and Social Science Innovation Management at University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt. From 2010 to 2013 Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer since 2012 Head of the Graduate School Darmstadt.Head of Research Center Electric Mobility

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Since 1972 our department at the University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt, Germany offers social science courses which are compulsory for all students in engineering and computer science. Since about fifteen years the focus has shifted towards topics of sustainable development.

Classroom discussions about the pros and cons of future technological developments often reach a point where engineering students come up with two questions: “Why do others think in a different way than I do?” “Why can’t they see that our new technical solution is brilliant?” To overcome this limited view I combined some of the weekly classroom meetings and implemented a full day session to provide the opportunity to engage in processes of negotiations about technical solutions or planned technological projects. One example is a project of a pumped storage hydro power station planned by an energy provider in a rural area with a barrier lake which had been built 50 years ago. It is a scenario made for intense political discussions. Taking the roles of representatives of various interest groups the students have to develop lines of arguments, posters and short statements to justify and explain the contradictory positions. In two rounds they have to stand for their position in a panel discussion whereas the remaining students are representing the general public in a social setting of town hall.

General feedback reveals [1] a very high level of interest of the students, a high rate of active participation and engagement in the discussions, and [3] the results of the final exam (usually a 20.000 character essay) show a good learning success.

Steffensen, B. (2016, June), Taking the Role of Others to Increase the Success Rates of Innovations Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26008

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