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Balancing Complex Social and Technical Aspects of Design: Exposing Engineering Students to Homelessness Issues

Integrated Engineering, Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, University of San Diego, San Diego, CA 92110, USA
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Sustainability 2020, 12(15), 5917; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12155917
Received: 12 June 2020 / Revised: 18 July 2020 / Accepted: 21 July 2020 / Published: 23 July 2020
This paper describes the development and implementation of a classroom experience involving problem-based and project-based learning with community engagement in an engineering design context. While most User-Centered Design courses ask students to critically analyze and synthesize user needs, particularly of users who they see as “not like them”, our version is unique in having students wrestle with concepts of power, privilege, and oppression alongside developing prototypes that address sociotechnical aspects of engineering design that are rarely discussed in engineering courses. The course project described in this paper was developed to integrate issues of homelessness with engineering design. To achieve this goal, we partnered with a local non-profit organization that provides access to safe, mobile showers for our unhoused neighbors. Considering the context and needs of people who experience homelessness, students built solar water heater prototypes that integrated with the mobile shower units of our partners. Our goal with this course is to demonstrate to students that technical solutions are often insufficient for solving sociotechnical problems. In this case, the partnership with the non-profit organization was critical to conveying to students that engineering alone cannot solve homelessness. View Full-Text
Keywords: sociotechnical engineering; engineering design; social justice; homelessness; course development; project-based learning; problem-based learning; community engagement; engineering education sociotechnical engineering; engineering design; social justice; homelessness; course development; project-based learning; problem-based learning; community engagement; engineering education
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MDPI and ACS Style

Chen, D.A.; Chapman, M.A.; Mejia, J.A. Balancing Complex Social and Technical Aspects of Design: Exposing Engineering Students to Homelessness Issues. Sustainability 2020, 12, 5917. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12155917

AMA Style

Chen DA, Chapman MA, Mejia JA. Balancing Complex Social and Technical Aspects of Design: Exposing Engineering Students to Homelessness Issues. Sustainability. 2020; 12(15):5917. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12155917

Chicago/Turabian Style

Chen, Diana A.; Chapman, Mark A.; Mejia, Joel A. 2020. "Balancing Complex Social and Technical Aspects of Design: Exposing Engineering Students to Homelessness Issues" Sustainability 12, no. 15: 5917. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12155917

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