Learning to Waste and Wasting to Learn? How to Use Cradle to Cradle Principles to Improve the Teaching of Design

Elizabeth Gerber
Segal Design Institute, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, 60208, USA
E-mail: egerber@northwestern.edu

Ann McKenna
Northwestern University, 2133 Sheridan Road, G319, Evanston, IL 60208, USA
E-mail: mckenna@northwestern.edu

Penny Hirsch and Charles Yarnoff
Northwestern University, 2-178 Crowe Hall, 1860 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208, USA
E-mail: phirsch@northwestern.edu, csy771@northwestern.edu

Engineers of the future are expected to be knowledgeable about the principles and practices needed to develop eco-effective products and manufacturing processes, yet it is challenging to integrate these principles and practices into undergraduate engineering design education. Our research explored one approach for beginning this process to help first-year students understand and apply cradle to cradle design practices in a user-centered, project-based design course. We used McDonough and Braungart’s 5-step model of cradle to cradle design as a framework to guide students through several exercises and reflections related to the prototyping activity in the course. The results of the research showed that through limited exposure to cradle to cradle design, students made some progress toward developing adaptive expertise in this area, although they had difficulty reconciling their new-found interest in cradle to cradle design principles with the competing demands of client wishes, time constraints, and limited access to and knowledge of materials.


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