An industrial engineering design experience reflecting upon moral development and well-being
Pomales-García, Cristina D.
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Typical design projects in the Industrial Engineering (IE) curriculum use a systematic process improvement methodology to solve problems for the manufacturing or service industries, where students have an opportunity to apply the knowledge gained through coursework in a real-world environment. While these projects are often assessed in terms of technical efficiency and course outcomes, less often do they assess experiential dimensions, such as the students’ reflections on the process, their engagement with the people involved (i.e. workers, users, affected communities), or their commitment towards ethical values and social responsibility. This work describes the reflections about a non-traditional junior year design experience, for a group of 45 industrial engineering students who worked in 13 teams, and completed a set of self-reflection discussion questions as part of the post-project experience evaluation. A participatory design experience in local coffee farms provided a novel and positive experience, helping students to better understand the IE profession and its scope. Content analysis framework was used to: summarize the students’ responses into trends and common ideas, quantify the impact of the experience, and uncover common themes across student responses. Findings show that the experience was novel for students, they envisioned how Industrial Engineers (IEs) can influence society and well-being, and that the project positively impacted their skills, knowledge, as well as their personal and professional development. The reflections show that 49% of students believed that the proposed recommendations in their project impact well-being, and more than 30% perceived that IEs could influence society and well-being through creating safer working environments. Findings show strong evidence that the experience helped students gain a better understanding of ergonomic-related applications within the IE field. Students perceived that the project helped them refine or develop teamwork, communication, critical thinking and interpersonal skills, as well as intuition, empathy, commitment, and leadership. Results also show students’ engagement at three different levels of moral development, including value realization, prevention and integration, as well as insights from a perspective of capabilities approach and social well-being with an emphasis on bodily health. Rubrics for project proposal, final written report and poster are included as part of the documentation for the project evaluation.