In an entry-level Electrical Circuits course, we designed a series of modules to help engineering students consider the social and ethical implications of electrical engineering. Such implications are particularly evident when we consider the origin of materials that electrical engineers use, the products that they develop, and the lifecycle of those products. Engaging with issues related to social context can seem disconnected from technical course content by both students and faculty because doing so challenges students to engage productively beyond the technical and requires faculty to devote class time to these themes. In this paper, we describe the design and implementation of three modules that integrate technical and social content to enhance student learning: one dealing with conflict minerals in capacitors, a second with design considerations for an innovative solar power source for use in developing nations, and a third with recycling of electronics. Modules included student homework, guest lectures, in-class discussions, and student presentations—students recognized this material as not deviating from the technical content of the class but rather further understanding the implications of this technical content. We also describe student response to these sociotechnical modules and lessons learned by the instructors. For example, one student commented, “I thought it was a really interesting topic that has larger social consequences. It was cool to get away from the stigma of engineers only worrying about math and showing that engineering is able to have effect in other disciplines.” Overall, students felt that these modules enhanced their learning of circuits content and was relevant to their training as engineers.
We prefer a regular session presentation.
Susan Lord is Professor and Chair of Integrated Engineering at the University of San Diego. She received a BS from Cornell University in Materials Science and Electrical Engineering (EE) and MS and PhD in EE from Stanford University. Her research focuses on the study and promotion of equity in engineering including student pathways and inclusive teaching. She has won best paper awards from the Journal of Engineering Education, IEEE Transactions on Education, and Education Sciences. Dr. Lord is a Fellow of the IEEE and ASEE and received the 2018 IEEE Undergraduate Teaching Award. She is a coauthor of The Borderlands of Education: Latinas in Engineering. She is a co-Director of the National Effective Teaching Institute (NETI).
Bre Przestrzelski, PhD, is a post-doctoral research associate in the General Engineering department in the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, where she innovatively integrates social justice, humanitarian advancement, and peace into the traditional engineering canon.
Before joining USD in August 2017, Bre spent 9 years at Clemson University, where she was a three-time graduate of the bioengineering program (BS, MS, and PhD), founder of The Design & Entrepreneurship Network (DEN), and Division I rower. In her spare time, Bre teaches design thinking workshops for higher education faculty/administrators at the Stanford d.School as a University Innovation Fellow, coaches a global community of learners through IDEO U, and fails miserably at cooking.
Elizabeth Reddy is a Teaching Assistant Professor in the Division of Engineering, Design and Society at Colorado School of Mines. She is a social scientist, holding a PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of California at Irvine.
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