Campus Units

Education, School of, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Publication Version

Published Version

Publication Date


First Page




Conference Title

2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Conference Date

June 16-19, 2019


Tampa, FL


Engineering design thinking has become an important part of the educational discussion for both researchers and practitioners. Colleges and universities seek to graduate engineering students who can engage in the complex nature of combining both technical performance with design thinking skills. Prior research has shown that design thinking can be a solution for solving complicated technical and social issues in a holistic, adaptive way. However, little is known about how students make sense of their design thinking experiences and reconcile that into their perceptions of what it means to be a successful engineer. As part of a five-year National Science Foundation REvolutionizing Engineering and Computer Science Departments (NSF-RED) grant, this study highlights the experiences of students engaged in a course which has been redesigned to enhance student development through design thinking pedagogy.

This case study sought to understand how electrical, computer, and software engineering students engage with design thinking and how that engagement shapes their perceptions of what success looks like. The case study was informed through observations of lecture and lab classroom contexts, interviews with students, and a review of relevant course documents. Participants met the following criteria: (a) were over the age of 18, (b) majoring in CES engineering, and (c) were currently enrolled in one of two courses currently undergoing redesign: a second-year electrical engineering course called Circuits or a second-year computer engineering course called Embedded Systems.

Preliminary findings reveal that students engaged in the design thinking course described a disconnect between design thinking elements of the course and their perceptions of what it meant to be a successful electrical, computer, or software engineer. Although design thinking concepts focused on empathy-building and customer needs, it was often difficult for engineering students to see beyond the technical content of their course and conceptualize elements of design thinking as essential to their successful performance as engineers. This study bears significance to practitioners and researchers interested in (re)designing curriculum to meet the growing needs of innovation for today’s customer’s. Implications for policy and practice will be discussed to enhance the way that engineering programs, curricula, and workforce training are created.


This proceeding is published as Rodriguez, Sarah, Erin Doran, and Paul S. Hengesteg. "Intersections of Design Thinking and Perceptions of Success for Electrical, Computer, and Software Engineering Students." Paper ID #27052. 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Tampa, FL. DOI: 10.18260/1-2--33010. Posted with permission.


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Copyright Owner

American Society for Engineering Education



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