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Engineers play a prominent role in the development of devices that improve nearly every aspect of life; however, the general public, including potential engineering students, often fails to see engineering as a profession that helps society. To help address this, the culminating capstone course in the first-year engineering program at Ohio Northern University recently incorporated requirements for student projects to address poverty alleviation in a Third World country. This allows students to better establish a connection between engineering and society, and to design a system within realistic engineering constraints. When assessing student performance after adding this requirement, evidence indicated that students had difficulty relating to the problem of poverty, as it was presented abstractly. Accordingly, personas - fictitious characters created to represent the goals and behaviors of a particular demographic of interest - are being developed to “humanize” the problem for the students. A persona is presented as a one- or two-page description that includes appropriate background information regarding a “typical” member of the targeted demographic along with a few fictional personal details to make the persona subject appear to be a realistic, believable character. Personas have been successfully used in fields such as marketing as they constitute effective “test platforms” for guiding decisions about a product, such as features, interactions, and visual design.
Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2010 IEEE
Date of Conference: 27-30 Oct. 2010