See Related: Engineering
  1. Ekundayo Shittu
  2. Associate Professor
  3. Service Learning Projects to Improve Engineering Students' Civic Engagement and Capacity for Innovation
  4. George Washington University
  1. Tiffany-Rose Sikorski
  2. Associate Professor
  3. Service Learning Projects to Improve Engineering Students' Civic Engagement and Capacity for Innovation
  4. George Washington University
  1. Jason Starita
  2. https://www.linkedin.com/in/jason-starita-bb934a147/
  3. Graduate Research Assistant
  4. Service Learning Projects to Improve Engineering Students' Civic Engagement and Capacity for Innovation
  5. George Washington University
  1. Erica Wortham
  2. https://www.linkedin.com/in/erica%E2%80%93cusi-wortham/
  3. Co-director
  4. Service Learning Projects to Improve Engineering Students' Civic Engagement and Capacity for Innovation
  5. George Washington University
Public Discussion

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  • Icon for: Ekundayo Shittu

    Ekundayo Shittu

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 9, 2022 | 10:27 p.m.

    Welcome!

    My name is Ekundayo Shittu, an Associate Professor of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering at the George Washington University (GW), Washington, DC. Along with my colleagues, Dr. Erica Wortham at GW’s Innovation Center, Dr. Tiffany Sikorski at GW’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development (GSEHD), Ms. Annamaria Tannon (formerly, GW's Chief Evangelist), and Jason Starita a graduate student at GSEHD, we are excited to share the premise of our project with you.

    Our project aims to revolutionize the engineering curriculum in an attempt to excite and galvanize engineering students into exploring ways by which they could use their engineering knowledge to address societal challenges. One of the core requirements, beyond technical know-how, is the ability to empathize in the process of coming up with human-centered design solutions to problems ranging from homelessness (the problem of the unhoused), environmental pollution and degradation culminating into climate change incidences, sex trafficking, to challenges related to marginalization and exclusion of groups or communities. It is our expectation that by having engineering students confront these societal challenges, their engagement with the engineering disciplines will transcend the boundaries of the traditional problem-solving paradigms into solution-seeking mindsets and individuals fortified with the uncommon knowledge combination required to decipher and advance positive societal transformations.

    Our project, in its second year, is engaging engineering students in radical ways by shedding lights on  hardly identified or rarely discussed societal issues within the purview of the engineering curriculum. As researchers, our project serves to address questions related to: (i) In what ways can engineering design solutions be human-centered? (ii) How can the training of future engineers be inclusive of the need to develop solutions confronting our immediate communities? (iii) To what extent can the training of the future engineer portray certain societal challenges as systemic, and thus require a systems thinking approach? An intermediary outcome is addressing how the art of storytelling could be made into one of the cornerstones of the engineering curriculum.

    We hope that you enjoy our brief introductory video. Please, feel free to leave us a comment, a “like” which in this case is your vote for our video for public choice. More importantly, we are happy to engage with you just as our project has successfully established exceptional and truly profound levels of engagement with our students.

    Thank you,

    Dayo

  • Icon for: Robert Reardon

    Robert Reardon

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 10, 2022 | 11:01 a.m.

    The innovation center is such an impressive concept. I see it as a way of bringing practice in the macro/theoretical environment down to the human level--to the individual's interest level. I'm all for engineers as agents of social change! 

     
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    Ekundayo Shittu
  • Icon for: Ekundayo Shittu

    Ekundayo Shittu

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 10, 2022 | 12:42 p.m.

    Many thanks, Robert. The individual interest level is the ultimate attraction that allows us to reach unprecedented depths in their engagement with their engineering studies. It has also spurned a heightened level of self-efficacy and professional identity.

  • Icon for: Sarah Fankhauser

    Sarah Fankhauser

    Researcher
    May 10, 2022 | 11:10 a.m.

    Awesome project! I think it's amazing how you are helping students use their skills for problems that are meaningful to them and their communities. 

     
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    Ekundayo Shittu
  • Icon for: Ekundayo Shittu

    Ekundayo Shittu

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 10, 2022 | 12:41 p.m.

    Many thanks, Sarah. In fact, it has also been a learning opportunity for us on the other side as faculty. For example, we have learned that some of the challenges that we felt were restricted to a particular demographic are actually also shared by others alike. It is reallt amazing hearing the students identify these issues and, more importantly, relating with them in empathetic ways.

  • May 10, 2022 | 11:20 a.m.

    Hi Dayo, I really enjoyed your video (I also voted for your video) and your passion when speaking! I am all about interdisciplinary education and identity development! I love the collaboration between the engineer, anthropologist, and the entrepreneur. You are speaking my language with such intercollegiate/departmental collaborations! Has this course come to stay or was it only a pilot?

     
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    Ekundayo Shittu
  • Icon for: Ekundayo Shittu

    Ekundayo Shittu

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 10, 2022 | 12:41 p.m.

    Thank you for the feedback, Kwame. The course is currently a pilot. We have learned enough from this exercise to know that it ought to become an integral part of engineering education. We anticipate that we would be able to institutionalize it as a staple for the engineering majors and computer science.  

     
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    Kwame Owusu-Daaku
  • Icon for: Christine Royce

    Christine Royce

    Facilitator
    Professor
    May 10, 2022 | 02:22 p.m.

    It is great to see all of the conversation related to this program already. The idea of engaging students through human centered engineering is very innovative in that it does help to meet this generation's desire to help others. It is also great that professionals from three divergent areas have collaborated on this and I suspect that it helps with providing different lenses from which to look at the engineering process.  I really appreciated the ending point about finding jobs through finding your passion!

     

     
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    Erica Wortham
  • Icon for: Ekundayo Shittu

    Ekundayo Shittu

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 10, 2022 | 02:54 p.m.

    Thanks a lot, Christine. Sincerely, we have learned as much as the students have in the course of this project. At least, I can say that I am now more in-tune, from different social perspectives, with the tenets of human-centered design thinking, storytelling, and a true sense of civic engagement inspired by empathy. As you rightly identified, it is an outcome of having diametrically different areas of expertise working together. Frankly, this speaks volumes about one of NSF's Big 10 Ideas, Growing Convergence Research: "The grand challenges of today -- protecting human health; understanding the food, energy, water nexus; exploring the universe at all scales -- will not be solved by one discipline alone. They require convergence: the merging of ideas, approaches and technologies from widely diverse fields of knowledge to stimulate innovation and discovery."

  • Icon for: Christine Royce

    Christine Royce

    Facilitator
    Professor
    May 14, 2022 | 07:49 p.m.

    So a question - when you talk about storytelling, have you incorporated storytelling as a basis for the reason for design, the marketing ideas to sell it to potential people, or both (or any other areas as well)?

     

  • Icon for: Ekundayo Shittu

    Ekundayo Shittu

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 16, 2022 | 09:14 p.m.

    Great question, Christine. Storytelling is not a core characteristic of the regular engineer. In fact, it is not even a part of the curriculum. However, running this program has revealed to us that it is an innate, but dormant quality of many engineering students that requires the right impetus to activate it.

    Our idea of integrating storytelling is a combination of both rationales you have stated. On the one hand, allowing the students to tell their stories (many of which were quite personal) allowed them to unravel their empathetic persona that, in turn, allowed them to showcase the dire need to develop solutions to some societal problems. On the other hand, the premise of storytelling also challenges the students to articulate their reasoning about the solutions in ways that a layman could appreciate. For example, the students in one of the cohorts were able to decipher that the term "homelessness" has some negative connotations that bear some perceptions of societal stigma. So, they coined the term, "unhoused." In fact, in scaling the hurdle presented by how to tell the story surrounding the solutions they came up with, they identified that both terminologies are not necessarily synonymous, and thus proceeded to generate potential solution strategies to the issues. This is just an example of how tasking students in technical fields to embrace social science constructs, i.e., storytelling, could help shed additional lights not only on the empathy associated with problem recognition, but also the acumen required in coming up with solutions to the problem.

  • Icon for: Nonye Alozie

    Nonye Alozie

    Researcher
    May 10, 2022 | 11:32 p.m.

    Hi Dayo- interesting project! It seems natural for engineers to think about societal changes since the work of engineers is to make positive and productive changes in society. Why do you think there is a gap between human centered thinking and engineering? What are some of your practices in helping engineering students become more socially aware and human centered in their learning and problem solving?

  • Icon for: Ekundayo Shittu

    Ekundayo Shittu

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 11, 2022 | 12:30 a.m.

    Thank you, Nonye. Your question is at the heart of our project. You are right, engineers are innovators. In fact, the word engineering comes from medieval Latin, "ingeniare" meaning to devise. However, the engineering education curriculum rarely exposes students to the opportunities in social innovation such as helping to address the many different ramifications of the marginalization of minority populations, disparities in social benefits such as healthcare, the challenges confronting the unhoused and homelessness, etc. Thus, the students are often unconsciously insulated from the awareness of some of these challenges or they are not challenged to develop a sense of civic engagement. This is because the engineering curriulum focuses less on building students' capacity in the use of their engineering skills and knowledge to address these civic challenges. On the contrary, the engineering curriculum emphasizes the economic opportunities that engineering degrees will open to graduates. Note, we are not postulating that this is less than optimal. Nonetheless, we note that many of these students anticipate careers where the effect of their knowledge is readily seen or observable in their immediate environment through human impact.

    Injecting a sense of civic responsibilty requires students to learn new skills. In fact, many engineering students are nescient of the tools of human-centered design and rarely demonstrate the empathy that is often required for addressing social challenges. We are seeing preliminary outcomes that support our main hypothesis that a curriculum addendum with service learning to address societal challenges will increase the engagement of the students in their learning with significant benefits to the society. A corrollary of this outcome is that students' confidence in engineering is being strengthened as they develop the capacity for social innovation.

    In terms of practices, our two-segment seminar series has students working together on case studies  and service learning projects that accord them the oportunites to develop and apply techniques from engineering, ethnographic research, design, and entrepreneurship. We are collecting evidences of their learning (or unlearning) in class sessions, vlogs, surveys, and their collaboration with external organizations. 

  • Icon for: Nancy Hopkins-Evans

    Nancy Hopkins-Evans

    Facilitator
    Senior Director
    May 11, 2022 | 12:43 p.m.

    This is such a robust discussion and I am excited to join.  Developing and implementing an engineering course to help improve and expand students' civic engagement while leveraging the Innovation Center is inspiring given how most traditional STEM courses focus on technical skills and concept attainment.  I do have some questions and realize that the project is in its second year.  Is this course currently an elective? How do students learn about this course?  Do you have a more diverse group of students taking this course versus other engineering courses?  What feedback are you getting from students?  Are there other engineering faculty who are interested in learning about the course or teaching it?  Do you think this course could have an impact on the types of students who select engineering as a major?  Is this course only open to engineering students or can students from other majors take it?  I have lots of questions because I am very intrigued and interested in this project. I so wish there was a course similar to this when I was in graduate school.  

  • Icon for: Ekundayo Shittu

    Ekundayo Shittu

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 16, 2022 | 09:35 p.m.

    LOL... your excitement is palpable, Nancy. Questions are required to unlock further answers, and these ones you have asked are just on point!

    Is this course currently an elective? 

     

    Currently, the courses are run as seminars and they are electives.

    How do students learn about this course?  

    We post numerous fliers across the engineering school, and we also go to speak about the courses in their regular/current classes. Sincerely, many students are quite interested, but the curriculum barely has any room to accomodate yet another course. Also, because we targetted sophomores (spring semester) for the first seminar and expect them to return in their junior year (spring semester) for the second segment, we are finding that many are scheduled for study abroad opportunities. Another major challenge, which is tightly connected to the limitations in the curriculum, is in finding the right time to run the sessions.

    Do you have a more diverse group of students taking this course versus other engineering courses? 

    We have focused strictly on engineering and computer science (CS) students. The CS department is housed in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at GW. Perhaps we could open this up to other disciplines across the school in a future opportunity.

    What feedback are you getting from students? 

    The feedback have been largely positive. In fact, many wish these courses were made staples for the engineering curriculum. We have seen noticeable increases in their perceptions of themselves as engineers, i.e., self-identity, and their anticipatory cognition in the use of their extant knowledge appears to have also increased.

    Are there other engineering faculty who are interested in learning about the course or teaching it? 

    Hmm... good question. While we have not received any direct or formal interests, we are quite optimistic that should we reach out, many would jump on the wagon. 

    Do you think this course could have an impact on the types of students who select engineering as a major? 

    Well, the target disciplines are engineering and CS. Perhaps when/if we open this program beyond the frontiers of engineering, we might be able to determine this impact.

    Is this course only open to engineering students or can students from other majors take it?

    Currently, it is only open to engineering and CS students only.

    Many thanks, Nancy, for your questions -- in my opinion, these are operationalization questions and it speaks volumes about your interest. Thank you very much.

  • May 11, 2022 | 01:42 p.m.

    Ekundayo, thank you so  much for your comment and vote on our video, Ed+gineering Brings Robotics Home During COVID. I watched your video: your energy and enthusiasm for your project (and students) is palpable! I love your focus on using engineering to address societal challenges. We both seem to focus on cross-disciplinary partnerships to effect change. I think we are on to something: we can't tackle these systemic issues when we stay in our silos. Your emphasis on empathy and storytelling reminds me of a really neat K-12 project that took a similar approach to elicit interest in engineering among young girls (Using narratives to evoke empathy and support girls' engagement in engineering). If I remember correctly, they found girls were more interested in engineering challenges that had an accompanying narrative that focused on helping specific individuals. Good luck and keep working to change the world!

  • May 12, 2022 | 01:34 p.m.

    This group also has a video here. Check them out: https://stemforall2022.videohall.com/presentati...

     

    And, I found another one connected to empathy. You all should put your heads together!

  • Icon for: Erica Wortham

    Erica Wortham

    Co-Presenter
    Co-director
    May 12, 2022 | 01:51 p.m.

    Thank you, Jennifer.  Yes, I love their project and video.  We are incorporate storytelling but this work reminds me that "storyfinding" is just as important – locating the story in the problem early is a great way to make the human-centered design approach even more accessible.  In design we often use the "user journey" to think through a problem diachronically while centering a perspective and lived experience.  Narrative work has the added benefit of connecting intentionally with underrepresented groups, brilliant.

  • Icon for: Erica Wortham

    Erica Wortham

    Co-Presenter
    Co-director
    May 11, 2022 | 01:53 p.m.

    Hi, Nancy, thank you for your questions!  The course is indeed an elective; as such we actively recruit the semester before via email, social media and visiting classrooms.  The course does appeal to a diverse set of students.  So far the main barrier has been scheduling – it's difficult to find a time in the week when students across the majors have a free hour and a half in common.   At the moment we are offering it to engineering students only but the impetus behind the class is to both test and seed interest in social innovation so that we might offer it across all majors in a scaffolded way, beginning with a first year experience.  Our efforts align with our Dean's vision for "Engineering And..." which breathes room into the engineering curriculum for interdisciplinarity, creative problem-solving, designing with empathy, ethics and communication (among other emphases).  Finally as a complement to the course, students are brought into the Innovation Center where they interact with students across the university – artists, historians, philosophers, etc. – on projects and workshops in a less formal, unstructured way.

     
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    Nancy Hopkins-Evans
  • Icon for: Anna Suarez

    Anna Suarez

    Facilitator
    President
    May 12, 2022 | 12:32 a.m.

    What an innovative program! I love the interdisciplinary focus and social applicability of the program. Are other universities integrating civic engagement into their engineering curriculum to this degree? You may want to consider a supplement request or conference grant to collaborate with other similar programs.

  • Icon for: Ekundayo Shittu

    Ekundayo Shittu

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 12, 2022 | 10:02 a.m.

    Thank you, Anna, for your comment. We are aware of related programs at other universities such as the VIP program at Georgia Tech. However, the premise of our program and the implementation approach are fundamentally different. While ours focuses on inculcating the tenets of human-centered design and empathy, theirs exemplifies the practical application of technical knowledge. The alignment we share is in addressing societal challenges in the process of nurturing the future engineer. 

  • Icon for: Anna Suarez

    Anna Suarez

    Facilitator
    President
    May 14, 2022 | 04:23 p.m.

    Dear Dayo, thank you for your response. Given the social mission of the Center and project, you may want to connect with Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (https://cecp.co/about/), an org that supports major corporation ESG strategy and giving.

    Checkout their Company Case Study & Spotlight under the Resource (https://cecp.co/home/resources/), for specific areas supported by corporate philanthropies. Below is an example from their website.  

    In summer 2020, following the murder of George Floyd and increased calls for racial justice action across the U.S., the S&P Global Foundation Board committed $1 million for the Foundation to partner with organizations that support equity and racial justice. By year’s end, the organization started supporting the groundbreaking work of three leading U.S. nonprofit organizations with grants identified in partnership with members of the S&P Global BOLD people resource group (PRG).​​​​

    ​​​​Since that time, the equity and inclusion grants budget has doubled. The S&P Global Foundation is continuing to expand and evolve commitments by engaging with S&P Global PRGs, and other organizations to identify nonprofit grantees that combat hate and discrimination, support systemic change, and advance advocacy and public education efforts to eliminate disparities and ensure justice.

    Below are highlights of the foundation’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) anti-discrimination grants from 2020 and 2021.

     

  • Icon for: Ekundayo Shittu

    Ekundayo Shittu

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 16, 2022 | 08:54 p.m.

    Oopsss... I have been sidelined from this for a few days by commencement activities.

    Many, many thanks, Anna. This is invaluable. Please, I would like to have a follow-on discussion with you related to this potential opportunity. My email address is: eshittu@gwu.edu. I could also send you an email once I figure out what your email address is. Thank you very much.

  • Icon for: Christopher Papadopoulos

    Christopher Papadopoulos

    Researcher
    May 15, 2022 | 10:11 a.m.

    Dear Erica,

    Thanks for checking out our video about our plan to develop a new program for Sustainability Engineering at UPR Mayagüez.  I have since watched your video and read the comments in this thread with great interest.  I really like that the GW Innovation Center adopts a social-technical systems framework, and that human centered design, community engagement, justice, and student passion are all blended together.

    I have some questions which reflect some of the challenges that we are trying to address in our program as well.  First, how are the problems and challenges identified?  I imagine students come with their own ideas, and this is welcome, but do you also have a set of partners who also present their challenges to be solved?

    Along that line, in thinking particularly of working with marginalized communities, have you attempted to grapple with the “design for” vs “design with” vs “designed by” paradigms, to break open the question of the balance of roles and decision-making power when engineers work on community projects?  Allow me to share an article in which we wrote last year Community Designers: A Pilot Virtual Community Codesign Symposium in which we explore these questions.

    Next, I thought Annamarie’s closing words in your video for students to “find your jobs through your passion” are really key.  Ultimately, how will learning about and practicing social change and innovation in college prepare and inspire students to embrace using their professional careers for making impact?  My own sense is that students question whether their future employer will share their sense of mission or values, and that they also feel that the options available to them are limited.  I realize that you are only in the second year of the project, but what can you say at this point about how students have discussed these questions, and how they have gone about their job seeking process?  How has the Innovation Center specifically mentored students for employment interviewing and seeking?

    Last a nuts-and-bolts question: from your video, it seems that the Center is as much a physical space as it is a group of students and faculty.  Can you say more about how that space came to be, and what kinds of resources it has?

  • Icon for: Ekundayo Shittu

    Ekundayo Shittu

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 16, 2022 | 09:56 p.m.

    Thank you, Chris, for the heads-up about the issues with the Innovation Center website that you emailed to us about over the weekend. The problem has been addressed. Thank you!

    You raise some important questions, sir. We allowed problem identification to evolve organically. First, we challenged the students to identify problems. This task allowed them to dig-in and provide some based on their own lived experiences. To meet them at their situated problem domains, we also invited partners into the fray. Sincerely, we did not pre-plan what problems or what domains the students would be working in. However, in genuflecting to the students choices, we find that their freedom to reflect truly activates their empathy. 

    Your point on the distinction between the three design paradigms is sacrosanct! My opinion here is that much of what we have tried to do entails either "design for" or "design with" paradigms. It is my belief that the third paradigm, "design by" is exclusive to commercial ventures. I will read your article, soon, to learn a bit more about these concepts.

    Your penultimate paragraph is loaded! One way to unload it is to share with you that the first segment of the seminar actually includes cases on how individuals could be change makers in their organizations. One of the readings in the semester is titled, "The Tempered Radicals: How employees push their companies – little by little – to be more socially responsible," by Debra E. Meyerson. The article was published in Stanford's Social Innovation Review. On the employment and interviewing aspects, we have other offices dedicated to those at GW. However, the Innovation Center is equipping the students with readily explainable opportunities at any interview. Frankly, I doubt our students would ever be found wanting on what to say that is not in their resume. 

    The center is evolving... our hope is that projects like this will continue to make the center flourish. 

  • Icon for: Christopher Papadopoulos

    Christopher Papadopoulos

    Researcher
    May 17, 2022 | 07:58 p.m.

    Thanks Ekundayo, great references.   We'll follow up.

  • Icon for: Lisa Weiner

    Lisa Weiner

    May 16, 2022 | 04:12 p.m.

    Nice to see so much conversation about the project!

  • Icon for: Ekundayo Shittu

    Ekundayo Shittu

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 16, 2022 | 09:36 p.m.

    Thank you, Lisa. 

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