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Interdisciplinary Design

Updated in 2003 from:
In Search of the Sweet Spot: Engineering, Arts, and Society in Design Curricula
Jeff Howard
May 1997

California College of Arts & Crafts
Oakland, Calif.
Industrial Design

The Industrial Design (ID) program is in the School of Design and appears to have little, if any, engineering content.

“The industrial design program teaches students to think deeply about products, as well as how to make them with grace, appropriateness, and passion.
Students learn industry-specific skills in researching, sketching, drawing, and modeling ideas to challenge existing commercial, cultural, and ecological paradigms. Students move from basic skill-centric projects to work premised on having and expressing a unique point of view about the world.
Projects are often related to the strengths of the Bay Area:
the intersection of ecodesign
the digital economy
entrepreneurial attitudes

Studio projects alternately focus on working individually and collaboratively. Interdisciplinary and interdepartmental partnerships are encouraged.” (May 2003)

Carleton University
Ottawa, Ontario
Industrial Design

Carleton is one of the few North American schools whose ID program is within an engineering program. The curriculum has significant engineering/technical content. According to one professor, the program also exhibits a “humanistic approach.”[i] The program’s literature emphasizes ID as an activity that “tends to embrace all aspects of the human environment … conditioned by industrial production”; it speaks of the need to “develop a design activity that contributes to the regulating of growth processes, the conservation of resources and the protection of the environment.”[ii] Two courses are of particular interest for their social content: Industrial Design Analysis (85.101), which emphasizes environmental conservation and values analysis [iii]; and Contextual Nature of Products (85.352), which examines the social and cultural context of the industrial product. [iv] [b>>e or f>>g]

“Design studios, which begin in first year and continue throughout the four-year program, focus on hands-on design projects. Students complement their studio courses with academic subjects like psychology, science, engineering, business, manufacturing and ergonomics. Initially students take more academic courses than studio courses to increase their understanding of areas related to design: By fourth year the educational emphasis is on studio-based practice. ” (May 2003)

Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, Pa.
Human Computer Interaction Institute
Industrial Design

The Human Computer Interaction Institute offers an MS degree in human-computer interaction that requires courses in computer science, design, and behavioral and social sciences.[v] The program “is highly interdisciplinary, with instructors from Computer Science, Design, Psychology, Social and Decision Sciences, and Business Administration.”[vi] “The objective of the … program is to prepare students to participate in the design and implementation of software systems that can be used easily, effectively and enjoyably.”[vii] [a>>d or f>>g]

The Design program, including Industrial Design, is in the College of Fine Arts. The descriptions of several courses in the design curriculum make explicit reference to social considerations. These include Human Experience in Design (51-171), Introduction to Design Thinking (51-172), Design History I and II (51-271 and -272), How People Work With Things: Advanced Human Factors (51-342), and Contemporary Design (51-372). The descriptions of the design studio courses, however, make no such references. Courses with social content may be intended to serve, as the description of Design History II indicates, “as a resource” for work in the design studio. It appears there is little, if any, engineering content in the ID curriculum.[viii] [b>>e]

“The BHA and BSA are interdisciplinary degree programs, allowing students to combine humanities or science studies with a selected program in the College of Fine Arts.” (May 2003)

“Students in our program take studio courses throughout all four years, supported by departmental electives in the ideas and methods of design practice and in the history, theory, and criticism of design. In addition, we consider general education to be an essential part of the education of a professional designer, and so require all students to take a substantial number of general education courses offered by other departments throughout the university. These courses also allow a student to obtain a minor in another department or program, such as Industrial Management (Business), engineering, human-computer interaction (HCI), or architecture.” (May 2003

Colorado School of Mines
Golden, Colo.

Levinger and Shea note that the Engineering Practices Introductory Course Sequence (EPICS) program “contain[s] some of the distinctive elements of the Rensselaer proposal,” including “attention to social and political contexts of design and engineering.”[ix] According to one faculty member: “[CSM] been doing design with a strong societal component from the freshmen to the senior level … for over a decade. In fact many of us feel that a true design experience is not obtained without that component.” In the EPICS program, projects not only involve technical research but “require students to consider non-technical constraints (economic, ethical, political, societal) … .”[x] A principal means by which the program maintains its “societal component” is that it takes design problems “directly from industry or government industries.”[xi] [a>>d or f>>g]

Associated with the ‘New Directions Initiative’ self described as intrested in “Unity of Knowledge and Transdisciplinarity” (May 2003)

Cornell University

Ithaca, New York
Engineering in a Social Context (M&AE 400/401)
Interactive Multimedia (Comm 639)

Two courses are of interest. The first is a Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering course entitled Components and Systems: Engineering in a Social Context (M&AE 400/401). It “addresses, at a technical level, broader questions than are normally posed in the traditional engineering or physics curriculum.” Through an examination of cases such as nuclear power and the Strategic Defense investigate[s] interactions between the scientific, technical, political, economic, and social forces that are involved in the development of engineering systems.”[xii] Students combine technical analyses with social analyses. This is a three-credit course, but some students take an additional design credit, producing an additional report that the instructor describes as “a technical assessment.”[xiii] [a>>d or a>>g]

The second course is a Department of Communication course entitled Interactive Multimedia: Design and Research Issues (COMM 639). It provides an “overview of multimedia technologies” such as CD-ROM. Recently one section of the course has explored ideological issues involved in technological design.[xiv] [c>>e or d>>g]

“Product design has changed. The tool of the future is not drawing boards, but integrated workshops combining computers, teleconferencing and presentation equipment, meeting areas and space for project development. A plan is in place to create the first integrated design studio in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.” (May 2003)

Evergreen State College
Olympia, Wash.
interdisciplinary design

The school’s innovative curriculum focuses heavily on interdisciplinary learning. According to the catalog, “Each Evergreen program is designed around a theme or question, and each draws on many traditional academic disciplines to explore this central question.”[xv] A program consists of two to five faculty members and 40 to 100 students working (“primarily full time”) for one or more quarters.[xvi] Many Evergreen programs involve study in three or more disciplines, and all require some cross-disciplinary work.[xvii] Evergreen has no engineering, engineering design, or industrial design programs. Design apparently emerges primarily in the context of multimedia, film and video.[xviii][b>>e]

“Greater Interdisciplinary Teams (Peter Pessiki’s idea) Create more Interdisciplinary teaching teams as the main way to create broad Liberal Arts options. Weave expectations into these programs… Special Annual Planning Sessions just for the Inter-Area teaching groups.” – (May 2003)

Fashion Institute of Technology
New York City
various design programs

Primarily apparel design and so forth. No industrial design program no engineering content, and little evidence of social orientation.[xix] [b]

“Like many university systems around the country, SUNY has decided that students earning baccalaureate degrees will benefit from a common core of general education coursework. To meet this goal, SUNY requires the completion of 10 courses. If you intend to pursue a bachelor’s degree at FIT, you must complete all 10 approved general education courses before you can graduate with a BS or a BFA from FIT.” (May 2003)

Georgia Tech

Atlanta, Ga.
Industrial Design

The Industrial Design program is in the College of Architecture but appears to have significant engineering/technical content. The program description indicates that an industrial designer “must be part artist, part entrepreneur, and part engineer. … While giving form to the efforts of industry, the designer is at the same time a consumer advocate, providing the humanizing link between technology and the consumer.”[xx] “The challenge [of] industrial design … is to maintain human priorities in an increasingly complex and competitive technological world.”[xxi] It is not clear, however, how this mission translates into design projects. Surprisingly, courses in humanities and social sciences are justified as necessary “for educational enrichment.”[xxii] [g]

“Design Education Across the Disciplines”
Janet L. Kolodner
and the EduTech Design Education Team

In EduTech’s design focal group, faculty representing
the full variety of design disciplines are working along with cognitive scientists in an
attempt to list the component skills involved in design, the kinds of activities and
projects that promote such learning, and based on that, to devise curricular frameworks and
guidelines for making design education work. We are working towards a core curriculum
in design, one that can be shared by the full variety of design disciplines. (May 2003)

Howard University

Washington, D.C.
Introduction to Engineering Design (300-101)

Levinger and Shea indicate that the first-year engineering design class “takes a social problem as an opportunity to develop technological fixes.”[xxiii] In Introduction to Engineering Design (300-101), the major project for Fall 1996 was design of small-scale solar vehicle. Mini-design projects in recent years have been portable shelters for homeless people, personal safety project for the elderly, portable water purification systems, and recycling systems for the university’s wastestream. Mini-design projects for 1996-97, on the theme of energy, are systems to propel water through a drinking straw and to prevent fluorescent tubes from breaking when dropped. All faculty members involved in the course are engineers, and the course syllabus does not explicitly mention a social orientation. [xxiv] The engineering program is a member of the Engineering Coalition of Schools for Excellence in Education and Leadership (ECSEL). [a or a>>d]

An Initiative of “The Strategic Framework for Action”
The following illustrative list provides examples of eligible activities that will be considered by
the Fund for Academic Excellence Advisory Review Committee.
a) Support, up to a maximum of $5,000, for the re-design of current courses or the
development of new courses whereby new pedagogies can improve student
performance; special consideration will be given to the design of interdisciplinary or
multi-disciplinary courses and courses which incorporate the “distance learning”
paradigm and courses which emphasize strengthening student research capability;
b) Support, up to a maximum of $6,000, for on-campus faculty seminars focusing on
research topics which promote interdisciplinary collaboration within/across
schools/colleges; (May 2003)

The College’s current research thrusts include computerized medical imaging, electric power systems, environmental engineering and materials science. Interdisciplinary research is being conducted in biomedical engineering, environmental and water quality, communications and signal processing, materials science, spacecraft guidance and control, power systems, software metrics, fault tolerant processing, and robotics and automated manufacturing and systems engineering. (May 2003) SFA II stresses the goal of expanding interdisciplinary research. It is only within the framework of an interdisciplinary approach that complex problems will be solved. Two major College achievements were the acquisition of the Keck Center for the Design of Nanoscale Materials for Molecular Recognition that was funded by the William Keck Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration award of a NASA NSCORT Center of Excellence in Advanced Life Support (ALS). In addition, the National Science Foundation recently funded the College’s interdisciplinary research proposal in power systems that will explore ways to make America’s power grid invulnerable to voltage collapse or sabotage. (May 2003)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Mass.
Product Development in the Manufacturing Firm (15.783J)
Structure of Engineering Revolutions (STS.185)
Engineering Systems, Economics, and Management (1.141J)
Integrated Studies Program

Several engineering-related courses are of interest. Product Development in the Manufacturing Firm (15.783J), combines engineering, industrial design, and management, with the ID component taught by faculty from the Rhode Island School of Design.[xxv] The Structure of Engineering Revolutions (STS.185), aims to help students “understand funding, politics, technology, and social context for historically significant developmental projects.”[xxvi] Engineering Systems, Economics, and Management (1.141J), explores “procedures for successfully designing complex technical systems that must perform well in a social context.”[xxvii] Also of interest is the School of Engineering’s Integrated Studies Program. Directed by an anthropologist, it “focuses on technology and its role in society. Specific technologies ranging from food production, weaving, and blacksmithing to the design of clocks, internal combustion engines, and communications systems are examined in the contexts of a variety of cultures.”[xxviii] MIT is a member of ECSEL. [a>>d or a>>g]

Observation & Invention is a creative tool that highlights the value of interdisciplinary design teams. The method was presented by Verplank, B. et al. as a tutorial at INTERCHI’93. This is an adapted version which I have used several times in interaction design and HCI classes. - (May 2003)

Interactive Institute – Konrad Tollmar,
… is a creative tool that highlight the value of interdisciplinary design teams. Different use of media that keep a record of the design
process ensures rich preconcep-tionally findings that engage the whole group. Important is to capture early observations of real users in real contexts. Based on
presents observations future characters and scenarios are formed that will move the stage to a future use of a virtual system. Finally the method outline how to
unify a conceptual model, with corresponding representations and artefacts. (May 2003)

AgeLab research is conducted by MIT faculty, researchers, visiting scientists, industry researchers, partner universities and students from a wide range of fields – an interdisciplinary group that aims to provide, through its diversity, a broad view of the complex problems related to aging, demographic and market changes throughout the world. The disciplines represented include:
Engineering & Industrial Design.
Behavioral and Social Sciences.
Health and Medicine.
Economics and Business. (May 2003)

‘An Interdisciplinary Group Approach to Development by Design: the Work of The Cardiff Group’ (May 2003) Media Lab Is an interdisciplinary center where diverse people were based in the Media Laboratory, so that their primary affiliation is in the Media Laboratory, Meaning that it is getting core energy and not marginal energy, thus allowing true synergistic cooperation, and not marginal colaboration. (June 2003)

North Carolina State University
Raleigh, N.C.
Industrial Design

The Industrial Design program, which is within the Design and Technology Department and the School of Design, has a strong humanities and social sciences bent. The school’s goal is “preparing the designers who, in the broadest sense, shape the world.” The technological environment has “a powerful impact on how humans function as a society,” so “good design … requires attention and sensitivity to social, economic, political and behavioral issues.” The ID curriculum has little engineering content. [b>>e]

Parsons School of Design
New York City
Product Design

The Product Design program emphasizes teaching students “to conceive attractive and functional consumer products that meet specialized needs and make intelligent, responsible use of available materials.”[xxix] The curriculum appears to have little social orientation and no engineering orientation.[xxx] [b]
“The Integrated Design Curriculum is a unique approach to design education that combines liberal arts, technology, and design, to develop broadly competent designers. Ones who have a greater understanding of the elements of human culture and the complex environment they will engage as professionals. IDC offers its design students a strong grounding in the liberal arts with a full complement of observation and communication skills. Collaboration and team work, writing and research, analysis and critique, verbal expression and presentation are integral to the IDC education and prepare students to formulate and study problems in depth and develop, represent, and articulate thoughtful and critical responses. (May 2003)

IDC projects vary greatly and are assigned in extremely broad terms. Students work collaboratively, pooling their resources and talents to identify and solve design problems. IDC stresses research, including one-on-one interviews and exploratory fieldwork, in order to develop appropriate and inventive design responses. Past projects have included design interventions in Chinatown and the East Village of New York City, environmental game boards, an architectural installation at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, and a collaborative website. (May 2003)

IDC stands for Integrated Design Curriculum (IDC). IDC is a four-year “Direct Entry” program that offers an opportunity for interdisciplinary practice and collaborative approaches to design at Parsons. Core areas of study in design, technology, and the liberal arts develop strong observation and communication skills that are applied to real-world problems. (May 2003)

Pennsylvania State University
State College, PA
Introduction to Engineering Design (ED&G 100)

Levinger and Shea indicate there is a “social aspects” component in the introductory engineering-design course.[xxxi] But the current syllabus of the course — Introduction to Engineering Design (ED&G 100) gives no indication of a social orientation.[xxxii] [a]

The engineering program offers minors in Science, Technology, and Society and in Peace and Conflict Studies.[xxxiii] It is a member of ECSEL.

(2003) – There are 12 Majors associated with the interdisciplinary studies curricula, no design or engineering cources.

There is an Achitrectural Engineering Degree out of the school of engineering, that intrgrates these two disciplins in a five year major.

Also at the school of engineering is the Learning Factory.

“The Learning Factory, an interdisciplinary hands-on laboratory that integrates design, manufacturing, and business realities into the engineering curriculum.” (May 2003)

Pratt Institute

New York, New York
Industrial Design

The Industrial Design program, in the School of Art & Design, is committed to “beautiful forms and products.” [xxxiv] The curriculum gives little evidence of social/interdisciplinary content or of engineering content. [b]

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, N.Y.

Interdisciplinary Programs “Low Walls” is Rensselaer’s exceptional interdisciplinary approach to education, where the lines dividing departments and curricula are blurred and intersecting. Where faculty, students, and even the programs themselves integrate and cooperate. Where you can focus on a major you love, but also explore other areas you’re interested in and acquire complementary skills that will further your career.

Rensselaer’s interdisciplinary programs include:
Bioinformatics & Molecular Biology: Meshing areas such as biology, medicine, and genetics with the new research technologies of the Information Age.
Ecological Economics, Values, and Policy (EEVP): A dynamic view of the world’s environmental challenges, at the intersection of science, sociology, and economics.
Information Technology (IT): Students combine IT, the driving force behind every industry on the planet, with over 30 second disciplines.
Minds & Machines: Combining cognitive and computer sciences; designing the robots, computers, and machines of tomorrow.
Product Design & Innovation (PDI): Creating the next generation of high-tech products, blending the art of architecture or the science of engineering with the vision of social science.
(June 2003)

Electronic Arts and Media Communication (EMAC): The EMAC program integrates aesthetic, creative, and critical thought with expertise in advanced electronic multimedia. The interdisciplinary approach combining arts and communication produces entrepreneurs and critical thinkers who will use technology in innovative ways in both commercial and artistic spheres, and in the increasingly significant overlap between these spheres. (June 2003)

Materialab: This consortium of faculty from the Architecture, Engineering, Physics Departments, with partinerships in industry, and government, work together to resolve diverse issues focusing on environmentally approperiate development. (June 2003)

Design as a Creative Model for Technical Inquiry is a 2-year project funded by the National Science Foundation to better prepare future teachers for the complex, multidisciplinary challenges of the twenty-first century. This initiative is a step to truly bridge the gap between the humanities, architecture and engineering in order to create a new kind of design education for our students. It is being developed by a core of faculty who saw the value of developing stronger connections between our disciplines. We believe that the best way to learn multi-disciplinary design is to do it and that we have developed a workshop model that can be a powerful way to begin the teaching of interdisciplinary faculty. (June 2003)

Rhode Island School of Design
Providence, Rhode Island
Industrial Design

“INNOVATION 21 GRADUATE STUDIO This studio is offered jointly by Landscape Architecture, Industrial Design, Interior Architecture, and Architecture. The focus is on issues currently facing society and the environment that demand reframed questions about societal needs and their implications, a sharing of disciplinary expertise, and innovative approaches to old and new technologies and materials and their application. Throughout the course, thinking beyond the limits of one’s own discipline will be stressed.” Instructor Charlie Cannon (May 2003)

The Division of Graduate Studies offers a selection of interdisciplinary seminars in addition to departmental seminars. Selected seminars, co-sponsored by various programs, are taught on a rotating basis. These include the Professional Practices Seminar and the Ethics and Landscape seminar.

Rochester Institute of Technology
Rochester, New York
Industrial Design

The Industrial Design program is in the Department of Industrial & Interior Design, School of Art and Design, College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. The course descriptions do not suggest a social orientation, and the engineering content does not appear to be extensive.[xxxvii] [b or f]

Royal College of Art

Computer-Related Design
Industrial Design
Industrial Design Engineering

Within the School of Design for Industry, there appear to be strong social and technical/engineering orientations in three graduate programs (a.k.a., “courses”): Computer-Related Design “is as much about people as it is about technology”; issues addressed include “How does technology affect culture — and vice versa?” Industrial Design emphasizes design as a multidisciplinary process, “a rich and complex activity drawing from and addressing a wide range of concerns, cultural, social, philosophical, political, and anthropological.” Industrial Design Engineering “emphasizes the development of social … sensibilities”; students write a thesis in which they “may consider in detail the broader ethical, social and cultural issues of a chosen area of design interest.”[xxxviii] [b>>e or f>>g]

San Jose State University
San Jose, Calif.
Industrial Design

The ID program is in the School of Art and Design. “[The] curriculum in design, theory, and skill classes [is] supported by courses in technology, business, science, art, and humanities.”[xxxix] [b or b>>e]

Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, Calif.
Computer Design Workshop

In Computer Design Workshop (Comm 193), which is cross-listed in the Studio Art and Mechanical Engineering programs, students work in teams to “explore solutions to social problems.”[xl] It appears the course may use this focus on real-world problems not to explore the social context of the design process but as a tool for teaching the use of graphics hardware and software.[xli] [a>>d or f>>g]

Stanford University

Stanford, Calif.
Product Design

The Product Design program is in the Design Division, School of Engineering; it is offered jointly with the Art Department. The Design Division combines “an emphasis on creativity, technology and design methodology … with a concern for human values and the needs of society.”[xlii] The Product Design curriculum has a clear social orientation. Students are required to take a course in the Technology in Society curriculum and another Human Values in Design (Mechanical Engineering 115A; catalog, p. 136).[xliii] It is not clear to what extent the social orientation is carried over into the design project courses (Mechanical Engineering 116A, 116B, 116C). [g]

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Environment and Resources. (May 2003)

“The School of Engineering offers interdisciplinary programs leading to the Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering. There are two types of School of Engineering Majors: Individually Designed Majors (IDMs), and interdisciplinary majors which have been proposed by cognizant faculty groups and which have been pre-approved by the Undergraduate Council of the School. At present there are three pre-approved majors: Aeronautics and Astronautics, Computer Systems Engineering, and Product Design.” (May 2003)

Syracuse University

Syracuse, New York
Industrial Design

The Industrial Design program is in the Department of Design, School of Art & Design, College of Visual and Performing Arts. The ID program is noted for “focusing on social and environmental responsibility.”[xliv] According to one professor, the program “view[s] designers as change agents or people that can and will be able to influence industry and/or society. We also understand the traditional role of design and the current job market … . So it’s a balance between ideals and practical needs.”[xlv] A course entitled Industrial Design: Product Humanics (IND 372) is geared to “Analyzing and defining human needs and developing simple products that serve them.” A Computer-Aided Design (CAD) course (IND 475/675) focuses, in part, on the “Impact of CAD on … society.” Other course descriptions refer to societal and environmental needs. One course is devoted to the philosophy and ethics of design.[xlvi] It isn’t clear how this social orientation plays out in project courses such as Industrial Design: Thesis (IND 574). There appears to be a small to moderate amount of engineering/technical content. [b>>e or f>>g]

“The Community Design Center is an interdisciplinary, collaborative workshop between students at Syracuse University and the City of Syracuse. The CDC offers architecture, urban design and planning assistance to neighborhoods and non-profit organizations in the city which do not have the resources to hire professionals to examine revitalization plans. The CDC also conducts original research on housing and urban design issues.” (June 2003)

University of Art and Design Helsinki
Helsinki, Finland
numerous design programs

The university has a diverse array of design programs, including an ID program within the Faculty of Product and Strategic Design. Little, if any, engineering content is evident, but there apparently is considerable interdisciplinarity and some attention to social considerations.[xlvii] [b or b>>e]

University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley, Calif.
Visual Design

Berkeley’s M.A. in Design is in Visual Design. [b] The university also has a College of Environmental Design, which I have not investigated.

University of Maryland at College Park
College Park, Md.
Gemstone Program
Introduction to Engineering Design (ENES 100)

The Gemstone Program, in the Institute for Systems Research, “spans disciplines and seeks solutions to the most compelling problems of our time” — “problems associated with technological change.”[xlviii] the program gives students from across the university an opportunity to carry out multi-year research projects. The program is new, and the first projects now being defined. Design will probably be a component of all projects and a major component of some. A project now being developed focuses on information security and warfare and may include a software-design component, for example. At the faculty’s urging, virtually all Gemstone students take Introduction to Engineering Design (ENES 100), regardless of whether they are engineers. Gemstone exposes engineering students to social issues, but its primary goal is to provide all students experience working in teams with people from other disciplines.[xlix] This approach is more multidisciplinary rather than interdisciplinary, for within a team students address target issue from the perspectives of their respective undergraduate majors. For example, it is up to students from the humanities and social sciences to place the team’s topic in a historical perspective and to assess the societal impact of proposed solutions.[l] [d or d>>g]

In Introduction to Engineering Design (ENES 100), part of the university’s ECSEL curriculum, projects have tended to be green rather than high-tech. In recent years, for example, students did wind-power projects and developed hand-powered water pumps for use in the Third World; in 1996-97, they developed solar desalination technology.[li] [a>>d]

University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, MI
Industrial Design
joint degree in Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering
Exploratory Design Laboratory
Joint Program in Liberal Arts and Engineering

The Industrial Design program is in the School of Art and Design, with little indication of significant engineering or social content.[lii] [b]

There is a joint degree in Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering, but with no indication that social perspectives are incorporated.[liii] [f]

An Exploratory Design Laboratory involves cooperation between Computer/Electrical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Operations Engineering, and Industrial Design. It is not clear that the lab has any social orientation.[liv] [f]

In addition, there is a Joint Program in Liberal Arts and Engineering.[lv] Presumably this could translate into a design experience for some students. [d?]

University of Waterloo
Waterloo, Ont.
Systems Design Engineering

The Systems Design Engineering (SYDE) program “represents a rational response to increasingly complex situations in modern technological society, involving not only technical, but also environmental, socio-economic and political factors.” The character of this social orientation appears quite narrow, however. The program’s mission statement suggests that social perspectives are gained through study of “human systems, social and environmental systems … and other systems topics.” The program’s workshop course titles and descriptions give little indication of human/society orientation. Conflict Analysis (SYDE 533; taught by the chair of the undergrad program) focuses not on the social acceptability of technological projects but on their social/political feasibility. A list of “seven stages to the design process” that apparently is one of the primary focal points of Introduction to Systems Design Engineering (SYDE 161) makes no explicit mention of social issues. [lvi] Some social content may be present in the program’s seminar courses, whose descriptions are not available. [a>>d]

Virginia Polytechnic Institute
Blacksburg, Va.
Industrial Design

The ID program, approximately two years old, is in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and is quite architecture-oriented. It focuses extensively on low-cost housing such as mobile homes and emphasizes ways in which the benefits of industrial production can be achieved without sacrificing quality.[lvii] The course descriptions reflect little, if any, social orientation or engineering content.[lviii][b or e]

“Dr. Goff has… collaborated with Professor Mitzi Vernon of the Industrial Design Program in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies in creating mixed groups of students from the two colleges which design and build robotic creations… Working with colleagues, he has received a CEUT Summer Faculty Fellowship for Interdisciplinary Design as well as three SUCCEED grants for Hands-On Laboratory, Early Design, and Curriculum Renewal.” - (June 2003)

Teaching Design Concept Through Interdisciplinary Collaborations, Building interdisciplinary bridges with similar theoretical design based cultures greatly increases a student’s conceptual awareness and design process. Bradley Whitney” – (June 2003)

Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester, Mass.
Interactive Qualifying Project
Major Qualifying Project

All WPI students are required to do an Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP). The IQP “challenges students to identify, investigate, and report on a self-selected topic examining how science or technology interacts with societal structures and values. The objective of the IQP is to enable WPI graduates to understand, as citizens and as professionals, how their careers will affect the larger society of which they are part.” The project “emphasizes the development of an understanding of the concepts and analytical techniques of the social sciences.”[lix] The WPI catalog lists five broad IQP themes: (1) technological literacy and public understanding of science; (2) reception of scientific and technical innovations by affected communities and technical professions; (3) impact of equity issues related to gender, race, ethnicity or social class; (4) reforms in science or engineering education; (5) processes of technology transfer and product innovation.[lx] Among scores of IQPs listed in the catalog, the word “design” appears in the title of only two: “Cognitive style shifts in the ‘Helios’ R&D team as it moves to the design phase of the product development cycle” and “An injury investigation of quadriplegia resulting from an automatic shoulder seatbelt: Design failure or negligent in use” [sic].[lxi] According to the Project Program administrator, another required project, the Major Qualifying Project (MQP), although more technical, typically involves a sensitivity to social concerns.[lxii] For many students, especially engineering students, MQPs involve capstone design activity.[lxiii] [a>>d or f>>g]