Difficulties Student Engineers Face Designing the Future

Micah Lande and Larry Leifer
Center for Design Research Stanford University
424 Panama Mall, Building 560, Stanford, California 94305, USA
E-mail: micah@stanford.edu

Design can change the world. Growing environmental and social concerns about the role we play as world citizens and caretakers of the planet have given rise to a green environmental movement and concerns of sustainability. But normative notions of sustainability only attack these problems in incremental ways. Another suggested approach, geared towards real impact and breakthrough innovation, is to shift the frame of these growing issues of our time in a different way. Rather than plainly engineer better solutions and implement better technology, this paper describes design and design thinking education practice and student examples that seek to change the context dramatically, break the mold of current means of thinking about sustainability, and the difficulties student engineers face in doing so. In examining mechanical engineering students doing design work in the context of a graduate level mechanical engineering design course at Stanford University, this paper will highlight some difficulties students have in framing, conceptualizing and designing for the future.


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