Project Details


NUE: Cross-disciplinary Education in Social Ethical Aspects of Nanotechnology NUE: Cross-disciplinary Education in Social & Ethical Aspects of Nanotechnology Overview: Page A Although accredited undergraduate engineering education programs include learning objectives related to teamwork, communication, and understanding of contemporary social issues and ethical responsibilities, pedagogical strategies for teaching to and assessing these objectives lag the development of the emerging engineering technologies that shape or necessitate them. Social and ethical issues, in particular, are typically taught in a classic liberal arts read-discuss-write approach that fails to engage the experimental and experiential learning and problem-solving strategies more familiar to engineering undergraduates. In response, this research agenda proposes a unique, cross-disciplinary, four-week workshop experience that will explore the social, ethical, and environmental issues raised by nanotechnology, build cross-disciplinary communicative competence, and enhance engineering leadership and teamwork skills by adapting learning activities originally developed by the LEGO(TM) Group called Lego Serious Play(R) (LSP). The research team proposes to test the efficacy of the proposed program in comparison to more traditional dialog-based approaches, and institutionalize successful aspects of the strategy via existing administrative structures. Intellectual Merit : Engineering education in nanotechnology suffers from several pedagogical limitations that inhibit the effective integration of broader social concerns into undergraduate curricula. For example, typical approaches to social context in engineering include examination of historical case studies. However, such retrospective approaches are incapable of directly addressing nanotechnology, where imaginative, prospective, and anticipatory approaches are called for. By necessity, these approaches required integration of knowledge from multiple disciplines, including those outside engineering. However, cross-disciplinary education initiatives at the undergrad level have lagged behind long-standing graduate efforts. This initiative proposes to create a cross-disciplinary, dialog-based trading zone by grouping engineering students with undergraduates from Design, English,& Sociology degree programs in a month-long workshop experience focused on self-constructed LEGO models that serve as metaphors, rather than realistic interpretations of nanotechnology. Thus, students will not necessarily be constructing molecular models so much as mental models that foster cross-disciplinary communication. The LSP approach proposed relies heavily on discussion that is immersed in a visual and tactile environment. The research team expects that the intensive linguistic socialization that results will impart in students the cross-disciplinary skills necessary to develop what is called interactional expertise, or the ability to communicate with experts outside a primary field of practice. The proposed evaluation strategy includes formative and summative assessment, as well as a unique experimental test of interactional expertise under development by a separate team led by the PI. Broader Impacts : This project will directly provide training to a diverse cohort of faculty and undergraduate students, and a PhD student in the Herberger Institute of Design with expertise in LSP. It will advance understanding of the processes by which students can acquire communicative competence outside their primary field of practice and enhance teamwork, leadership, and understanding of social issues in engineering students, while improving nanotechnology literacy in non-engineering students. It will specifically reach out to underrepresented groups within engineering. Lastly, the project will leverage technical work and products from a prior NE award at ASU, produce and disseminate a series of two-minute videos that document the workshop experience from the undergraduate student experience, and produce a longer"Faculty Cross Talk" under the auspices of the ASU Office of Institutional Inclusion that document the faculty experience, and provide source materials to other Universities seeking to replicate the successful aspects of our approach.
Effective start/end date11/1/1310/31/17


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $223,759.00


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