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Virtuous Reality: The Development Of Safe Design Through Transdisciplinary Teams

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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

Design Methodology

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1353.1 - 14.1353.13



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Paper Authors

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Yvonne Toft Central Queensland University

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Prue Howard Central Queensland University

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

Virtuous Reality: The Development of Safe Design through Transdisciplinary Teams


The development of safe design as an aspect of professional practice has been the impetus for an action learning project, using an innovative teaching model at CQUniversity, Australia. This transdisciplinary, project orientated, teaching and learning model, brings together the two disciplines of ergonomics and engineering with a view to shifting the paradigms of engineering education to include human factors in design, and ergonomic education to include technical design issues.

The cornerstone of the project is the recognition and development of personal and shared ‘virtues’ within the project team and learning community. The defined virtues create a common language of communication and perception, person to person, to create a team dynamic and provide an integration of cultures for the effective integrated activity of disciplines – effectively developing a shared ‘culture of character’. Transdisciplinary teams built on this foundation focus on joint goals in a safe learning environment and with a commitment to higher ideals.

There are various contexts that make up the ‘reality’ part of the project. The overarching reality is the contextual reality. The socio-technical context of the Project, which created the original impetus, is the real life lack of ergonomics/human factors input into the education of future engineering professionals, a lack highlighted by a national review of engineering education in 1996, and supported by further research. It is commonly accepted that latent error in engineering design causes accidents. This lack of ergonomic input needed to be addressed. The Project was designed to facilitate the necessary interaction and to provide future professionals in both disciplines with new, overlapping skill sets. Other contextual elements are sustainability, safe design, a systems approach and human centred engineering.

The Project has been through a number of cycles based on action research methodology. Different levels of disciplinary activity have evolved during the course of the project, ranging from disciplinary: within the defined discipline, multidisciplinary: between the disciplines, through interdisciplinary: across the disciplines and finally to transdisciplinary: between, across and beyond the disciplines.

This paper outlines the project and its outcome for the students and staff involved.


This paper shares our learning from a broader research project which strived to inform a changed professional practice paradigm for engineering designers in Australia to effectively incorporate people as an integral design consideration from inception of the problem definition and original concept development. The research has evolved to include multiple paths of intervention and has a futures orientation.

Toft, Y., & Howard, P. (2009, June), Virtuous Reality: The Development Of Safe Design Through Transdisciplinary Teams Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5816

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