Our research characterizes front-end design practices across the student to practitioner continuum, uses these findings to develop tools to support design best practices, and studies the impact of front-end design tools on design success. We focus on divergent and convergent thinking processes, including concept generation and development and problem space exploration, how to foster creativity in engineering work,  and processes to understand social and cultural elements of the contexts in which engineering work occurs and integrate them into decision making. Further, our work explores how the content of engineering curricula, including attention to creativity and social aspects of engineering work, impacts students’ sense of belonging in the field and desire to persist in their studies and into engineering careers.

What We Are About

Our work aims to change the way engineering conceptualizes, teaches, and shows value for skills that have been considered “additional,” but are vital skills for engineers to innovate for complex socio-technical challenges. We work to regularize these skills by creating empirically-based tools and active teaching and training approaches, and by partnering with instructors and practitioners on integration into the regular curricula and industry training. We strive to support inclusion for students who feel like they are not “typical” engineers, because they want to be creative, identify problems that directly impact people, and explore in spaces that have no one single right answer.