ENG 100: Human-centered engineering
At the start of their undergraduate careers, first-year engineering students – including those in mechanical engineering and engineering mechanics – enroll in a course that teaches them to develop learning skills for inside and outside the classroom, practice leadership and collaboration, and build community with their classmates.
This past fall semester, ENG 100 (Engineering Orientation) prompted students to build an educational toy or game for one of several specific audiences: first-year students in a class setting, first-years in a casual setting like a dorm, athletes, graduate students, or the elderly. The goal was to encourage human-centered design (HCD) in engineering.
ME senior Sumayyah Hussain is the lead Engineering Learning Assistant (ELA) for first-year MechSE students and helped this group of ENG 100 student teams with their projects.
“These were five- to six-week projects that the students worked on with a focus on human-centered design from the start – from the ideation process to the interviewing and through to prototyping. We want engineers to design things for other people, so the whole purpose of introducing HCD so early in their careers is because it helps them focus on the audience instead of the product,” Hussain said.
The teams were given the freedom to design and create what they wanted, to encourage creative, wide-ranging ideas. Through class discussion and assignments, the students were able to explore resources available to them on campus, examine and set goals, and develop the skillset to work in diverse teams.
One team created an educational board game for elderly people, called “All Around the World,” in which players, referencing a map of the U.S., roll the dice and answer trivia questions in certain topics like sports or science.
“We learned from interviews with our grandparents that this audience is eager to learn as well as spend time with family. So we created a game that incorporates a wide array of facts to learn and also is a family experience,” said team member Jackson Fatheree.
Another team developed a physical representation of an app that would help first-year students practice time management. From their research, the students found that a common theme among this group was the pressure of managing an intense workload.
Team member Rishika Parmar said the project helped them realize how vital HCD is in engineering design.
“We learned how important it is to base our product on what users say because the success of a product really depends on how much the users like it. There’s no point to the product if no one is going to use it, so the HCD aspect becomes really important in the process,” Parmar said.
At semester’s end, each team created a short slide presentation and prototype demonstration at the HCD Expo, which included an audience of other students, staff, and faculty.
Sophia Litauszki, an ELA and ME junior, said she was impressed with what the teams presented at the Expo.
“From what I saw in both my class and at the Expo I’ve seen a lot of creative ideas. They really seemed to learn about the importance of creating things for other people and not just creating an idea for the sake of creating an idea – as well as having fun during the process.”
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This story was published February 5, 2024.