Introducing Systems Thinking to the Engineer of 2020

Date
2011-06-01
Authors
Rehmann, Chris
Brumm, Thomas
Rehmann, Chris
Rover, Diane
Laingen, Mark
Mickelson, Steven
Mickelson, Steven
Brumm, Thomas
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
Abstract

To prepare the engineer of 2020 to address the grand challenges of engineering, the E2020 Scholars Program at Iowa State University seeks to have students become proficient in four pillar areas: leadership, innovation, global awareness, and systems thinking. Each pillar is introduced in three weeks in a freshman-level seminar and reinforced in half of a semester in a year-long sophomore-level seminar. Students applied systems thinking to grand challenge problems by considering factors inside and outside of engineering and using three graphical tools. They identified connections between elements with rich pictures, explained relationships with causal loop diagrams, and sketched the behavior over time of key variables in the system. Qualitative observations and quantitative assessments suggest that the initial offerings were mostly successful: Most students stated that the activities helped them to appreciate the range of issues affecting an engineering problem. Students struggled most with identifying key variables and deriving the behavior over time from causal loop diagrams.

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This proceeding is from Proceedings of the 2010 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Meeting & Exposition.

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