Engineering and technology literacy introduced in cornerstone design cours

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2 Scopus citations


Many first-year engineering students do not have an understanding of the engineering profession or the engineering design process. Their vision of what it means to be an engineer and the engineering design process can sometimes be summed up as brainstorm-build. Many are also unaware of the cyclical process of design-build-test. Most students have also never worked with clients or users. While many students have worked in teams, they have not mastered teamwork, and so they tend to find themselves dividing up the assigned work and trying to put it all together just before deadlines and due dates. Nearly twenty years ago, Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science changed the first-year engineering curriculum to include a cornerstone design course. It was an opportunity to expose students to the design process prior to their capstone experience. over the years, the one course grew to two courses-spreading components of the design process over two quarters, and giving the students more responsibility in the second. The courses have a 50-minute lecture and two 80-minute studio sessions weekly. Students register a lecture and a studio section. The studio sections consist of up to 16 students and include two instructors: one engineering and one communication faculty. Additionally, students form groups of four and are paired with an external client who poses the problem statement. For the first course, there is one project per studio section. For the second course, the majority of the sections have up to four projects-one for each four-student team. These two cornerstone design courses are designed to help students develop basic engineering and technology literacy through human-centered design, extensive primary and secondary research, and the testing of the team's ideas building physical mock-ups and assessing them internally and with the client and users. The goal of these courses is to instill empathy in the students through using the user-centered design approach to solve real-world problems by utilizing technology and their engineering skills to develop a design that will improve the daily lives of their clients and users. This work-in-progress paper will discuss the activities that help students start to develop engineering and technology literacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 23 2018
Event125th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Salt Lake City, United States
Duration: Jun 23 2018Dec 27 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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