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Design Visions

Service Learning by Engaging Older Adults: Transforming Engineering Education, Student Attitudes, and the Self-Efficacy of Elder Neighbors

Speaker: Associate Professor Caitrin Lynch, Olin College of Engineering
Date: May 19 (Mon) 13:30-15:00
Location: Case Study Room (3rd floor, Research Bldg. No.2) at Yoshida Main Campus, Kyoto Univ.

Report (jp)

Service learning — an increasingly popular approach to engineering design projects — motivates students, connects engineering theory to practice, and attracts diverse populations who may find the human connection more compelling than sophisticated technology. This presentation focuses on the approach and impacts of an engineering design service learning course that engages a compelling and unfamiliar population close to home: the senior citizens in nearby communities. Engineering for Humanity, an interdisciplinary engineering design and anthropology course at Olin College of Engineering, near Boston, Massachusetts (USA), is a semester-long partnership between the college and the Councils on Aging in three neighboring communities. Each year, older community members are recruited to partner with students in a series of discovery, design, and community-building activities. During the semester, students and their elder partners engage in a series of activities designed to bring them together and to create a community. Initially, these include a series of everyday activities, such as grocery shopping, luncheon, or home visits, in which the community is built and students also learn (through conversation and observation) about difficulties and triumphs of the elder partners’ lives. Next, students synthesize what they have learned into project ideas, refining these briefs into robust, targeted, and manageable projects through consultation with experts and co-design with the elder partners. A series of standard design stages — specification, prototyping, testing, refinement — are accompanied by visits with the elder partners for feedback, continued learning, and continued community building. By the end of the semester, students present their elder partners with an engineered product aimed to increase the elders’ well-being.

Yutaka Yamauchi, Graduate School of Management