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Telling Design Stories For Engineering Design Entrepreneurship

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Entrepreneurship Education: Experiential Learning and Economic Development II

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1172.1 - 14.1172.15



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Paper Authors


Barbara Karanian Wentworth Institute of Technology

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Barbara A. Karanian, Ph.D. is a visiting Professor and Lecturer in residence in Mechanical Engineering Design at the Center for Design Research at Stanford University. From Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, she specializes in industrial-organizational psychology and engineering design entrepreneuring.

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Gregory Kress Stanford University

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Greg Kress is a poetic and energetic Course Assistant in ME 310 innovation at Stanford University.

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Joel Sadler Stanford University

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Joel Sadler surprises and short cycle protoypes extensively at the Stanford University D School.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

TELLING DESIGN STORIES FOR ENGINEERING DESIGN ENTREPRENEURING Keywords: engineering design team education, story, aesthetics and leadership, collaboration

Introduction I am riding Caltrain and twirling a water-filled paintbrush into a compact box of watercolors to plan my afternoon class. I take the train during the week from San Francisco—newly transplanted from Boston—to Palo Alto where I am a visiting professor. During the first weeks of the commute I used a computer for this purpose, then books; finally I turned to what makes time stand still for me— painting. Today I am trying to figure out a way to structure exercises to access story as a methodology and explorative form for a graduate engineering and design methods class. To do this I reflect back on what I already know, what I am learning from graduate student co-creators, and how my participant observation as instructor for the class will impact the developmental stages of their projects.

We know that collaborative design thinking is a social activity [1]. Members work together in teams in the workplace and increasingly in engineering schools in project-based design courses. While these courses give an experience of working in teams, the elements of how insights help individuals create new approaches, sustain engagement and inspiration well into a project and appreciation for new emerging teams are often not emphasized. How will “story” as an explorative form help the graduate student participants who interact with one another to generate and prototype ideas into artifacts? How will the instructor and the students balance leadership as a variable in the process, and artfully influence the transformative connection results of the class?

The nature of personal interaction appears to have an empowering symbiotic energy when guided by a strong connection among members. The possibility for collaboration has a positive result on impact and the development of individual research projects. What is the explicit nature of the interpersonal connections in design groups that facilitate breakthroughs [2]? To what degree are the participants aware of the push-and-pull dynamics [3] of interpersonal behavior as positive or corrosive to the team process, which in turn artfully affects the design team’s performance?

“Artistic desire drives my design process.” This comment came from a graduate student—named Sangbae—developer of the famous stickybot, as he participated in the design methods seminar. Sangbae’s gift is not only contained in his ability to build and deliver a robot that will climb and stick with hundreds of sharply tapered synthetic fibers, it is also in his capacity for connection and deep reflection within the group. We will return to his story, and his willingness to use connections to reflect on sustaining inventive actions with the class, in a later section. Before learning from his and other story elements, it’s important for you first to consider why we believe in story as a powerful artistic medium and a useful explorative form. Stories can create a transfer of energy and balance leadership connections. Fusing the parallel between creative desire and creative delivery across each developmental stage of a process ‘story’ transforms individuals in the class. In order to lay the groundwork for looking at Sangbae’s and other telling stories, we briefly discuss the artistic “balancing act” of leadership and connection. Then we consider the meaning of transformative connections, with examples from the class where the students and leader participants explore, evolve, excite, and deliver their project “story,” discuss the beginning and middle of our co-developed methodology, closing with what this tells us about the idea of engineering design entrepreneuring.

Entrepreneuring refers to inventive actions that are characterized by a symbiotic energy flux within the collaborative connections of a group. Entrepreneuring may be observed in the behaviors of leading entrepreneurs and contained in the collaborative conditions of a group.

The central focus of the current work is a parallel between the artistic desire that drives the design process and how telling stories drives new design elements. Students live their project stories within

Karanian, B., & Kress, G., & Sadler, J. (2009, June), Telling Design Stories For Engineering Design Entrepreneurship Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5784

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: © 2009 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