Grand Challenges Portfolio Overview

Background

In 2008, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) identified 14 Grand Challenges for the 21st century. These Grand Challenges are clustered into four general areas: Energy and Environment, Learning and Computation, Health and Wellness, and Global Security. (NAE, 2008).

In response to the NAE’s Grand Challenges, three academic institutions, F. W. Olin College of Engineering, Duke University, and University of Southern California, initiated an academic effort by creating the Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP), a national curricular framework designed to transform engineering education to better prepare students to address the Challenges. For more about the Grand Challenges Scholars Program: Grand Challenge Scholars Website

The GCSP at Olin College is open to all interested Olin students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Interested Olin students are required to develop a plan of study that describes their intent to participate in the GCSP, a description of the tentative proposed work, and how the work will be accomplished and assessed, as described below. For more information about Olin’s GCSP, see this document: Olin Grand Challenges Program Summary 042010.

To earn the distinction of a Grand Challenge Scholar, a Program Participant must meet the requirements set in five GCSP program areas (NAE, 2009) and demonstrate active involvement in Olin’s Grand Challenge Scholars Community. This online portfolio is meant to be a culmination and synthesis of my work in various areas, many of them pertaining to one of the Grand Challenges: “Advancing Personalized Learning.”

Portfolio: “Creating Visual, Self-Directed Learning Environments”

Upon arriving at Olin College, I didn’t have a clear vision for what I wanted from an engineering education. In many ways engineering is the profession that is most known within the list of least understood career paths. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in high school, but I knew that engineering was the category under which  math, science, and building things all fit in somehow.  A project oriented and self-directed curriculum as well as a vibrant and passionate community led me to Olin College, where I discovered my passionate for user-oriented product design, the future of education, and dozens of related topics.  My time at Olin College has shown me how engineering is not a simply list of math and science topics, but an approach to problem solving that can, or should at least, draw on many other disciplines in order to solve real world problems. There will always exist a need for growth in pure math and science fields, but my interests lie at the intersection of disciplines, the gaps between standard university departments.

The theme I selected for my “Grand Challenges” Portfolio was “Creating Visual, Self-Directed Learning Environments,” since it captures much of the work I have done while at Olin that relates to the Grand Challenge Scholar’s Program requirements. The four main areas visualized below act as anchors to the story of my time and work at Olin, and each has its own main portfolio post, each of which link to specific project and deliverables from my time at Olin.

Product Creation

Olin’s consideration of the entire product life cycle, from idea to market, led me towards working for and creating various startups. While each startup was different in the product or service we were designing, the considerations of human-centric design were central to every project, often working with our target users to co-design our product, whether that be Olin or middle school students, firefighters, teachers, non-profits or other student startups. In this part of the portfolio, I will walk through a timeline of startups I worked on in my time at Olin, many of which had roots in education in some way.

Full Detailed Post: Grand Challenges Portfolio: Product Creation

Visual Concept Breakdown

One of the greatest challenges I’ve found when doing engineering work is being able to facilitate communication of engineering projects and work so that all audiences might understand what you’re hoping to show. In many cases it takes careful planning and organization of your message, be it in the form of a business elevator pitch, a visual concept map, interactive demo, or complete presentation. Across various projects I have in this section of my portfolio shown how these visual breakdowns have helped communicate what otherwise might have been impossible to. While it isn’t always the case that every visual tool you design need to work for all audiences, the same logic that extends from teaching is true when communicating engineering work: If you can teach what you’re hoping to communicate to your elderly grandmother or a very young child, your message should be clear to everyone in between as well, often enough at least.

Detailed Post Coming Soon!

Academic Self-Direction

In many ways my major, Engineering with a concentration in Product Design and Development, evolved over time, and became my major, largely due to the academic flexibility and self-direction built into Olin’s curriculum and academic policies. In many ways my passion for education was first applied at Olin through a process known as Olin’s Curriculum Review, something Olin strives to do every five or so years, where it completely “throws out” its existing assumptions about the curriculum at Olin and evaluates as a community all proposals and ideas for everything academic. I was fortunate enough to go through this process as a first-year student, and I contribute much of my passion for curricular efforts at Olin on that experience, as well as the student designed courses and independent studies that evolved as a result of that process.

Detailed Post Coming Soon!

Engaging Learning Environments

Overview Coming Soon

Detailed Post Coming Soon!

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