Engineering is a 3-credit honors course in which students learn the engineering process by tackling real engineering design problems in teams and presenting their solutions to expert engineers and clients.

For the opening project of the Engineering course, students were challenged by occupational therapists from United Cerebral Palsy to design a lightweight and versatile mount for communication devices. Many UCP clients use iPads or dedicated tablets to communicate and want to be able to mount those devices to a variety of surfaces (walkers, wheelchairs, strollers, tables). Adjustability, compatibility with multiple devices, and low weight were top priorities. Especially for young children, some existing mounts actually weigh more than their walkers or strollers, making them prone to tipping over.

The goals of this project were to introduce students to the engineering design process and tools for modeling and prototyping while also emphasizing the importance of human-centered design. Right away I want them to see that engineering is about more than “making things.” Good engineering design requires a deep understanding of the people you are designing for and recognizing their wants, needs, and frustrations.

Interested in reading what two students had to say about the project?

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Photos of student prototypes and conceptual designs

Students spent four weeks on this project – doing research, conducting interviews, designing, and prototyping. At the end of the project, they presented both their conceptual designs and initial prototypes to the Assistive Technology Specialist from UCP for feedback. The project ultimately was about more than just engineering. Working on a real problem in teams exposed them to a community of people most of them knew little about, helped them build empathy and communication skills, and gave an important sense of purpose to the engineering design aspect of the project.

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Julia Hodges

Julia Hodges

I graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2011 with a BS in Aerospace Engineering and earned my MA in Teaching from Dominican University in 2015. While the cubicle life was ultimately not for me, my time as an engineer gave me a deep appreciation for the importance creative problem solving and critical thinking. I’m thrilled to be exploring how we can better teach those crucial skills to students.