In 1997, the F.W. Olin Foundation established Olin College of Engineering with a visionary and unprecedented grant “to be an important and constant contributor to the advancement of engineering education in America and throughout the world.” From day one, Olin had no departments or tenured faculty, allowing for true collaboration and integration of efforts.
At Olin, it’s not just about what students know, but what they do with that knowledge. Every student learns about software, electronics and mechanical systems, and has several chances to work with students from other majors on interdisciplinary projects.
Olin is excited to join KEEN and brings its spirit of collaboration into its engagements with other network schools and faculty.
Olin’s approach and alignment with KEEN are exemplified in the following video highlighting our User Oriented Collaborative Design (UOCD) course. In UOCD, our focus is on user-oriented, collaborative approaches to design and seeking holistic solutions to problems by integrating user and functional perspectives. We emphasize the importance of process and the development of strategies. Students immerse themselves in their curiosity as they observe and engage people to develop a deep understanding of their values and the patterns of their lives, and then make connections and develop detailed concepts and models of authentic new products and services. They work collaboratively in a studio environment to generate a shared understanding of the people they design for (and with) and create value with the product ideas they develop. Topics covered include design thinking, ethnographic methods, concept development and interaction design.
We need to incorporate new elements into engineering students’ education to give them both the skillset and mindset needed to become leaders in addressing societal challenges.
--Richard Miller, President, Olin College of Engineering
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A course on electronic circuits is common in engineering programs. It is often a challenging one for novices because it relies on the abstract ideas of electron motion, charge build-up reflected in voltage, and time-dependent responses. While sensing, instrumentation, and measurement are common activities in engineering, introductory circuits courses often focus on concepts and analytical approaches to circuit function. For example, the edX course on electrical circuits lists as learning objectives: designing and analyzing circuits; lumped circuit models and abstraction; construction of simple digital gates; and measurement of circuit variables.
This paper is about a course designed to enable the novice learner to begin using foundational understanding to design simple instrumentation circuits that can sense and measure physical phenomena that are concrete to the novice learner, such as angle, weight, temperature, relative humidity, distance,and one’s own heartbeat, pulse, and blood pressure. After completing the modules, students are given an opportunity to design a final project involving sensing, measurement, and instrumentation. As a first-semester, first-year college course, we have also incorporated a number of design elements that foster success for novices of a diversity of learning styles and for those who are in the process of adjusting to all the newness of college life. We first explain the course design and then describe the data on student responses to the course in Fall 2019.
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This paper is about the liberal education goal of emancipation in the domain of thought. Specifically, liberal education’s aim is, as stated by Ewert, “to achieve freedom from selfimposed constraints, reified social forces and institutions, and conditions of distorted communication” [1, p.354].
As middle-aged female engineering faculty, the authors recognize that our enculturation in engineering and science has “bound” our thinking to conform to masculine norms. Through a classroom intervention intended to serve a diversity of learners, the authors have uncovered an emancipatory pathway for engineering faculty and students. The pathway involved caring for students through linguistic, epistemic and aesthetic shifts in the existing laboratory documentation for first year engineering students. These actions transcend what are normally hidden engineering and science education values and norms; they are in the“invisible” causal domains of intent, and design. In this collaborative quasi-autoethnography, we unpack student focus groups narratives that illustrate that the interventions served to disrupt the distorted messages that learners normally receive about themselves from traditional engineering and science education settings.
Our reflections on our (i.e., the Authors’) own learning journeys,along with our descriptions of the interventions and analyses of focus group reflections provide a rich picture of a pathway for engineering and science educators who desire a liberal education.This path liberates engineering faculty and students alike while not sacrificing the technical content.