Sustainable Product Design: Designing for Diversity in Engineering Education

Lora Oehlberg, Ryan Shelby, and Alice Agogino
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, California, 94720-1740

Current and future engineers will need to address sustainability’s triple bottom line, simultaneously addressing financial, environmental, and social goals. There is also a need to improve diversity in engineering, both in the communities served by new technology and the representation of gender and ethnic minorities among engineering professionals. We present data gathered from ‘Engineer- ing 10: Introduction to Engineering Design and Analysis’. This freshman course includes a six-week Mechanical Engineering module entitled ‘Sustainable Human-Centered Design’, that covers both human-centered design techniques as well as the principles of sustainable design. We investigate these students’ experiences, confidence, and goals, focusing on aspects that might vary with gender and ethnic affiliation. We suggest that enrollment diversity in engineering could be improved by teaching engineering in a manner that both complements the previous engineering and design background of all students, as well as emphasizes the learning goals most important to under- represented engineering students. We also recommend offering sustainability and service learning projects that appeal to women and ethnic minority students in order to pique their interest and encourage their pursuit of an engineering career.


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