Integrating Holistic Thinking into Cornerstone Engineering Curriculum

Engineering Design 100 (EDSGN 100) is the cornerstone course taken by nearly all first-year Penn State engineering students. One of the course’s emphases is the importance of systems thinking in the engineering design process. Through relevant and engaging materials, our work aims to increase consideration of a holistic framework, specifically incorporating socioeconomics, policy, health, and the environment, which previously had not been deliberately considered within design projects in EDSGN 100. Due to the significant reach of the course, increasing students’ literacy of these aspects is crucial for preparing engineers to excel in their future careers. Our curriculum development centered on augmenting two educational modules currently used within the course—“Seeing the Big Picture” and “Goals for Change”—to strengthen the connection between holistic thinking and the engineering design process as applied during student design projects. In approaching “Seeing the Big Picture,” we identified opportunities for activities to engage students and developed materials that clearly emphasized the need to consider environmental, policy, social, health, and economic factors in the design process. We created several new interactive activities centered on systems thinking, life-cycle analysis, and root cause analysis. Additionally, “Goals for Change” was completely re-designed to emphasize the interdependencies between global challenges put forth by the United Nations and the National Academy of Engineering, while connecting to Project Drawdown climate change solutions through a project-based, student-led approach. Ultimately, we hope to make the resources, which are broadly applicable to many fields, both technical and non-technical, available online for educators to use around the country. In emphasizing the importance of systems thinking in EDSGN 100 and making the resources accessible, we hope to further help people consider holistic frameworks behind global issues across disciplines.

Monday Poster Session
Courtney Claire Barber
Clara Bardot
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Electricity Generation