Engineering Human Solutions
Developing technology products for social profit – and not just financial gain -- is the goal of a new, international postgraduate course being developed among European and American colleges in cooperation with the Fetzer Institute.
Offered at KU Leuven in Flanders, Belgium in collaboration with Thomas More College and other peer institutions, the class seeks to add a new, social layer to the focus and job preparation of aspiring engineers.
The appeal was summed up nicely in a comment by electrical engineering student Greet Baldewijns, who is interested in the project, she says, because “I want to do a project that will better the community, and not just enrich someone else.”
Community Service Engineers are expected to have added value in the emerging labor market in niches ranging from social profit enterprises, makers of assistive technologies and more traditional product development teams.
Reframing engineering as a social undertaking that begins with understanding and addressing people’s needs broadens the appeal of the field and helps recruit women, who are often under-represented in the ranks of engineers worldwide.
That has led to 45 percent female enrollment in a CSE program at U.S. program partner Olin College, said Engineering and Physics Professor Mark Somerville. In the course, engineering is “not a technical undertaking but one that’s about helping people and understanding people.”
The course curriculum has been created and recruiting efforts are under way to begin offering classes in 2014. Students will receive insights into the User Centered Design process that is vital for serving the most broad population possible with new technology and products.
“Engineering education has a major role to play in the challenges the social sector is facing today,” said Research Coordinator Jan Dekelver, “we are convinced that technology, if used in a proper way, can create a more inclusive society.”
The program’s partnership with Cera, a century-old social service organization, creates a strong real-world component of great value to students by bringing together the identified needs of social organizations with technology providers.
This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on Engineering Professions.