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A broadened perspective: teaching engineering design in a social context

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1 Author(s)
Newcomer, J.L. ; Dept. of Manuf. Eng. Technol., New England Inst. of Technol., Warwick, RI, USA

The role and importance of design in engineering education is changing. Capstone design courses have become well established in many engineering programs in recent years, and their value has been realized by educators, students and employers alike. As such, many recognize the need to introduce the design process earlier than the senior year, and spurred on by changing ABET requirements, many engineering schools are beginning to explore methods for integrating design throughout engineering curricula. Exactly what form engineering curricula will take when design is integrated throughout remains to be seen, although they will surely be varied. Nevertheless, there will be trends, and these trends will shape the methods and approaches engineering graduates use in their careers. These trends will have an effect upon engineering as a profession and society as a whole, as well as the innovation and creativity of industry in the future. The author believes that as design is taught, students are socialized to behave in certain ways and not in others. By examining some of the commonalities in the well established capstone design courses that are offered by most engineering programs, the author argues that these courses take a narrower approach to design than they could and should. While there is much about these courses to be lauded, there are things that can and should change about the way design education is approached, especially as they begin to be integrated throughout entire curricula. By taking a broader perspective on design in engineering education, and treating design as a synthesis of many issues of a social and cultural, as well as technical and economic nature, students will be provided with fewer implicit constraints and an expanded concept of design. Students with broader perspectives on design will, the author believes, be better designers, and in the long run this will benefit engineering as a profession and society as a whole

Published in:

Frontiers in Education Conference, 1997. 27th Annual Conference. Teaching and Learning in an Era of Change. Proceedings.  (Volume:2 )

Date of Conference:

5-8 Nov 1997