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“You Could Take 'Social' Out of Engineering and Be Just Fine”: An Exploration of Engineering Students' Beliefs About the Social Aspects of Engineering Work

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Undergraduate Students' Professional Skills and Reflection

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

25

DOI

10.18260/1-2--36539

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/36539

Download Count

204

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Paper Authors

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Robert P. Loweth University of Michigan Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-6337-2889

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Robert P. Loweth is a PhD candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. His research explores how engineers engage and include diverse perspectives in their engineering work. His findings have informed the development of tools and pedagogy that support engineering students in investigating and reflecting on the broader societal contexts and impacts of engineering activities. He earned a B.S. in Engineering Sciences from Yale University, with a double major in East Asian Studies. He also holds a Graduate Certificate in Chinese and American Studies, jointly awarded by Johns Hopkins University and Nanjing University in China. In addition to his doctoral work, Robert is also a Graduate Facilitator with the Center for Socially Engaged Design and an Engineering Teaching Consultant with the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching in Engineering.

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Shanna R. Daly University of Michigan Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-4698-2973

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Shanna Daly is an Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. She has a B.E. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Dayton and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. Her research characterizes front-end design practices across the student to practitioner continuum and studies the impact of developed front-end design tools on design success.

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Leah Paborsky University of Michigan

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Leah is a graduate from the University of Michigan with a B.S.E. in Mechanical Engineering and minor in Space Sciences and Engineering. She served as an undergraduate research assistant in the Daly Design and Engineering Education Research Group focusing on engineers’ beliefs about social aspects of engineering work. She is currently pursuing a M.S. in Aerospace Engineering Sciences at University of Colorado-Boulder.

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Sara L. Hoffman University of Michigan

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Sara Hoffman is a Research Associate for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Center for Socially Engaged Design at the University of Michigan. Her work focuses on developing case studies and workshops to prepare students for equitable and inclusive engineering practice.

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Steve J. Skerlos University of Michigan

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Professor Steven J. Skerlos is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. He is a tenured faculty member in Mechanical Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering. He also serves as a UM Distinguished Faculty Fellow in Sustainability.

He is Director of Sustainability Education Programs in the College of Engineering and Co-Director of the Engineering Sustainable Systems Program. He is Chief Science Officer of Fusion Coolant Systems.

Professor Skerlos has gained national recognition and press for his research and teaching in the fields of technology policy and sustainable design. He has co-founded two successful start-up companies (Accuri Cytometers and Fusion Coolant Systems), co-founded BLUElab, served as Director of the Graduate Program in Mechanical Engineering (2009-2012), and served as associate and guest editor for four different academic journals.

His Ph.D. students in the Environmental and Sustainable Technologies Laboratory have addressed sustainability challenges in the fields of systems design, technology selection, manufacturing, and water.

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Abstract

Engineering is both a social and technical discipline, and engineering students encounter the social aspects of engineering work in a variety of education and internship contexts. These education and internship experiences inform engineering students’ beliefs about the social aspects of engineering work and thus influence the practice and outcomes of their work. To better understand the variety of beliefs that engineering students may possess about the social aspects of engineering work, we conducted interviews with 30 upperclassmen engineering students. Participants were provided with eight statements related to the social and technical aspects of engineering work. They were then asked to pick two statements that aligned most with their experiences and two that aligned less well. Focusing on the social elements that students discussed, fifteen out of 30 participants selected “Engineering is a social discipline” as aligning less well with their experiences, in part because they interpreted “social” to be about social bonding and felt that it was separate from, and unnecessary to, effective collaboration. Seventeen out of 30 participants also selected “Engineering is a team discipline” as a statement that aligned well with their experiences and identified collaboration and communication as core aspects of engineering work. Discussions of other social aspects of engineering, such as engaging with stakeholders, collaborating with users, or considering the societal implications of engineering work, were relatively limited. Understanding engineering students’ beliefs about the social aspects of engineering work based on their previous experiences can help us better align engineering curricula to promote more holistic and inclusive views of engineering.

Loweth, R. P., & Daly, S. R., & Paborsky, L., & Hoffman, S. L., & Skerlos, S. J. (2021, July), “You Could Take 'Social' Out of Engineering and Be Just Fine”: An Exploration of Engineering Students' Beliefs About the Social Aspects of Engineering Work Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36539

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