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Make engineering designs more inclusive: "Who are we creating value for?"
Updated: 9/8/2021 10:32 AM by Becky Benishek
Description

How we used Entrepreneurial Mindset to eliminate bias in design?

 

This card describes the framework of a project, designed for an undergraduate engineering course where students' curiosity is challenged to identify cases of non-inclusive engineering designs and work in teams to propose a solution to the flawed designs using the concepts they learned within the class or outside class. In this assignment, students share their personal experiences of exposure to a biased design as a story with their teammates (see this card) where they discuss the importance and impact of each design, both on a personal and societal level. Potentially a connection could be created between the personal experiences and the topics students choose which acts as an intrinsic motivation tool to work as a team to create value for the negatively affected people.

Our experience from piloting the project in an engineering course:

This project provides a platform for any engineering student to demonstrate their 3Cs. For the first time this assignment was executed in a major-required second-year analytically-focused biomedical engineering course called “Conservation Principles in Biomedical Engineering”; but the scope of resources shared here, can be customized for any engineering course. Also, based on class size, available infrastructures in the institutions, and format of the class (virtual, in-person, or hybrid) the instructors can modify the logistics or pace of the project phases. The quality of the artifacts significantly improved when students worked as groups of four. To evaluate the effectiveness of integrating EM using this project two implementation schedule was used. In the first approach the project was executed in two consecutive weeks at the end of semester. In the second approach, the project was dispersed through the semester. Both students and instructors found the second method more effective. 

 

Project's structure:

Preparation:  

Brainstorming: students are asked to work on their own to look for examples of non-inclusive (biased, flawed) designs.

Story 1 (motivation): they share a case of a flawed design that personally affected them or a loved one. In this story, they identify whom the existing process or design was intended to create value for, how bias affected the design, and how this impacted the person they are reflecting about. By having students tell a personal story we hope to make the impact of non-inclusive designs seem more real to them and to increase their motivation and sense of connection to the project.

 

Phase 1:

Case study: each student on the team shares their ideas for what they can work on together as a team. The team is tasked with identifying a flawed non-inclusive engineering design they’d like to learn more about and then developing a case study designed to inform and motivate members of the lay public about the flawed design and affected people.

Story 2: each team member should write a creative story that illustrates, in an emotionally evocative and concrete way, how the flawed design (the one that they studied) has negatively impacted an individual or group of people. 

 

Phase 2:

Proposal: the team create an engineering proposal for how to rectify the shortcomings of the existing design. To complete the second report, students use the engineering skills learned in the course to analyze the original design and to propose a new solution or a modification to the existing design, that will create value for the individuals who were not well-served by the original design. The objective of this part of the project is to allow students to see how the skills they have learned in the course can help them better understand how the design works, as well as how to improve it.

Story 3: each team member should write a hypothetical story about a positive transformation that can happen to the affected user, if the proposal's modifications are executed successfully. This story should have technical details and have a professional audience.

Presentation: (TED talk meets elevator pitch) the students present their work in a 2 minutes pitch presentation, addressing what was the value they created? why they think that is important? How they they want to solve the issue?

 

Learning Objectives

After this project students will be able to:

  • Identify non-inclusive / biased engineering designs 
  • Use their technical skill set to propose improvements to the flawed design 
  • Use story telling skills to connect the concepts learned within or outside the class to create value for the people in the society
  • Perform engineering analysis and use critical thinking 
  • Communicate with various groups of audiences such as general public, engineers, scientists, and business people 


Instructor Tips

Based on our experience of running this project for multiple semesters, we can recommend the following points: 

Our mindset: It is important to communicate with your students about the value that they are going to create by completing this project. Your goal should be training of engineers who are value makers. In addition to that you want them to consider all the demographic groups, when they make assumptions for their designs.

Scope: It is important that your students select the problems (research topics) that are within the scope of your class. Given the fact that inclusivity of an engineering design has multiple aspects, students may need your advise to pick an aspect that can be analyzed based on learning objectives of your course. There must be a balance between novelty and the concepts you are working on in your class. Sometimes students prefer to work on a topic that is too basic, and sometimes they pick a topic that can not be addressed within the time frame of a course. To resolve this issue, you can ask your students to consult with you about the topics they want to work on. 

Grading scheme: You should make sure your students are aware of your grading policies while you are presenting the project to them. We used the specification grading system (Nilson 2014). In this grading system, each assignment is broken down into several sections and each section consisted of several specifications. Based on the quality of each specification, they receive a pass/fail grade for that specification. A partial credit should not be awarded for that specification. Based on your grading policies and class structure, you can give your students a chance of resubmission.

 
Scheduling: We have used two different scheduling approaches when we implemented this project in our course. In the first approach we executed the project, in two consecutive weeks at the end of semester. In this approach students were completely familiar with our course's learning objectives so the topics and projects they worked on, were not significantly deviated from the scope of class. But the main challenge was the time management. In our second approach we distributed the project's different phases through the semester. In the second approach we noticed a significant improvement in the quality of the artifacts that students created. Also, the end of class surveys showed instructors and students preferred the second approach.    

Curiosity
  • Demonstrate constant curiosity about our changing world
Connections
  • Integrate information from many sources to gain insight
Creating Value
  • Identify unexpected opportunities to create extraordinary value
Design
  • Determine Design Requirements
  • Create Model or Prototype
  • Analyze Solutions
Opportunity
  • Identify Opportunity
  • Evaluate Tech Feasibility, Customer Value, Societal Benefits & Economic Viability
Impact
  • Communicate Societal Benefits
  • Biology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomolecular Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Engineering Education
  • Engineering Technology
  • Entrepreneurship
  • General Engineering
  • Metallurgical & Materials Engineering

We reported some of our works here: 
KEEN national conference workshop based on this concept:
Social Justice and Entrepreneurially Minded Learning: Who are we creating value for?(2021 KNC Session)

ASEE 2020 article:
WIP:A Case Study of Integrating Inclusive Engineering Skills into a Middle-years Biomedical Engineering Course via Model-based Reasoning

ASEE 2021 article (under review):
WIP: Integration of inclusive mindset in a middle-year biomedical engineering course: a study over healthcare disparities via Story Driven Learning


Acknowledgments: 

  • This work was supported by national science foundation (Award Abstract # 1730262 IUSE/PFE:RED: Transforming for inclusion: fostering belonging and uniqueness in engineering education and practice) and KEEN foundation (Award: -------). 
  • Also the authors want to thank KEEN steering committee at Georgia Institute of Technology.


We also want to thank our students who have participated in this project and helped us with their feedback. In the survey that we gave at the end of Spring semester, 42% of our students directly mentioned this project as the best aspect of their class. Their comments can be summarized in the following quote:

"the project was the best part of this course because it felt like I was actually learning something and the effort I put into the project was rewarded with a valuable outcome for some people" 

 

Folders
Description
This project is a work in progress and we improve the materials and the intervention's structure. We update the project's materials here, if we have any new version. The current version of all the documents belong to Spring 2021.

File guide for the faculties:

Framework: The framework gives the sequence of the steps in this project. The time frame can be adjusted by the instructional team.

Daily plan 1 and 2: list of the activities an instructor can do while they are running this project.

Lecture notes: We developed two lectures for this project, the first one focuses on the concept of bias and the second one focuses on engineering modeling.
Title Type Ext Date Size
Project's framework Photo / Graphic .pptx 6/24/2021 73 KB
Daily plan for phase 1 Instructor Notes .pdf 6/24/2021 79.5 KB
Daily plan for phase 2 Instructor Notes .pdf 6/24/2021 113.1 KB
Lecture note 1 Presentation .pdf 6/24/2021 1.1 MB
Lecture note 2 Presentation .pdf 6/24/2021 3.8 MB
Description
This project is a work in progress and we improve the materials and the intervention's structure. We update the project's materials here, if we have any new version. The current version of all the documents belong to Spring 2021.

10 documents were shared with students.

00 - Brainstorming: In this assignment each student find 3 cases of bias in engineering.
01- Story 1: Student share a story about, how they or a person they know was affected by a biased design.
02- Phase 1 Handout: In this document the students get familiar with the project and the artifact they should create.
03- Phase 1 Rubric: In this document students learn about grading and the structure of the assignment.
04- Story 2 Handout: Students write a creative story about a person who was affected by the bias design that they investigate.
05- Phase 1 Peer review: Instruction for students to give each other constructive feedback.
06- Phase 2 Handout: In this document the students get familiar about writing a proposal.
07- Phase 2 Rubric: In this document students learn about grading and the structure of the assignment.
08- Story 3 Handout: Students write a hypothetical story about a person who originally was affected by the bias, but used the updated (based on the proposal) design.
09- Presentation handout: Instruction for creating a presentation and its rubric
Title Type Ext Date Size
00- Brain storming Activity / Handout .pdf 6/24/2021 122.3 KB
01-Story 1 Activity / Handout .pdf 6/24/2021 139.6 KB
02-Phase 1 Handout Activity / Handout .pdf 6/24/2021 276.3 KB
03-Phase 1 Rubric Activity / Handout .pdf 6/24/2021 76.6 KB
04- Story 2 Handout/Rubric Activity / Handout .pdf 6/24/2021 110.5 KB
05-Phase 1 Peer review Activity / Handout .pdf 6/24/2021 98.3 KB
06-Phase 2 Handout Activity / Handout .pdf 6/24/2021 72 KB
07-Phase 2 Rubric Activity / Handout .pdf 6/24/2021 78 KB
08- Story 3 Handout/Rubric Activity / Handout .pdf 6/24/2021 101 KB
09-Presentation Handout/Rubric Activity / Handout .pdf 6/24/2021 77.7 KB