Level Up: Use-Inspired Design I (EGR 201)

Level Up: Use-Inspired Design I (EGR 201)

"I believe that aspects of EM were always integrated into this course. We just didn't make it explicit ...  I think that, just like  other professional skills such as reflection, communication,  and teamwork, if EM is explicitly brought up throughout the curriculum, then it will be impressed upon and better understood by the students to be a key pillar of our program as well as at ASU."

- Adam Carberry, Associate Professor, The Polytechnic School 

Case at a glance

Integration goals

To shift student thinking away from "design for one's self" to "design for users"

Materials affected

All course materials--major course redesign

Lessons learned

Sequencing 3Cs content for product dissection and reverse engineering projects can be challenging, raising questions such as, Which C should come first? and, Does the order in which the Cs are introduced matter pedagogically?


A second-year engineering course that requires a project is generally rare. EGR 201 is that and more: a multi-disciplinary, project-oriented, flipped-classroom course. It has two to three mini-projects during the first half of the course, and then a final project working with a local community partner, such as a museum or elementary school, takes up the second half.

Around 2013, the course title changed from “Fall Multidisciplinary Project 1” to its current title, “Use-Inspired Design I,” and its first project was one the instructional team had been implementing for a few years--a project in which students dissected, analyzed, and then mathematically modeled the inner workings of a disposable camera. Over time, the project became one of the three mini-projects underlying the course, and evolved to incorporate an element of redesign for people from another culture or country. The course (and, specifically, this project) lent itself to EM; however, the course required a major redesign to explicitly integrate EM and shift student thinking away from "design for one's self" to "design for users."

The instructional team wanted to create a stronger connection to real-world factors. Part of this desire was fueled by a concurrent effort by all design project spine faculty (not just in EGR 201, but also in EGR 101, 102, and 202) to innovate on, and create more continuity between the courses. From these conversations, the focus of the EGR 201 team shifted to use-inspired works with EM. EGR 201 is one of the first courses transfer students take when matriculating in from community colleges, which means they have not taken EGR 101 and 102, in which EM is now integrated to further build on the introduction to it during E2 camp. As a result, the EM stakes are high for these students since this might be the first time they get exposure to it. Furthermore, students in the second year select their concentration area within general engineering (or select to pursue the manufacturing engineering degree). The faculty agreed that EM could be a way to help students recognize the potential value and impact of each concentration.

As the instructional team set off to incorporate EM into EGR 201, they began to pose questions such as, “What if the first three mini-projects of EGR 201 mirrored the 3Cs, and then students leveraged those three concepts and the engineering design process in the final project?” They settled on revamping the previous camera project to require students to redesign the camera for a client or end user through a process that involves talking with actual stakeholders. The team also envisioned that the project could be kept open-ended enough to allow the theme of the project to change and be updated every year. That is, there could be multiple variations on this project, to keep course content fresh from year to year. (Iterations on this project to date have included disposable cameras and electric toothbrushes, with different household objects planned for the future.)

This case covers the first and second iterations of the EM integrated project, implemented in fall 2016 and spring 2017, respectively. Six consecutive sections of the course were taught during the fall 2016 term, and one section was taught during the spring 2017 term. 

Integration details

To introduce students to the entrepreneurial mindset of approaching a project being curious, making connections, and creating value for others, we redesigned the course to have students dissect and redesign a product followed by a reflection on how, if at all, they used the entrepreneurial mindset. In particular, EM was embedded into the second mini-project of the course utilizing the approach of “product archaeology”  in fall 2016. Students were introduced to the concept of EM and provided resources to learn more about it, specifically those resources on the KEEN website and an EM 101 video created at ASU. 

The product archeology approach begins with what simulates an archeological dig: benchmarking against other similar products and documenting what’s found. EM allows them to take it one step further. That is, they take a product designed 20 to 30 years ago and design the same concept for a new user group. For the first offering of the project utilizing the disposable camera, the students’ task was to design a product that captures images in one way or another. They needed to redesign the camera for a new user group (based on constraints such as being used in a developing nation or during a specific activity). Their design requirements needed to reflect what is unique about their user group and demonstrate understanding of the user group’s desired product. They needed to empathize with members of the user group, not just with other engineers, to come to a solution to their particular problem. Students created a physical mock-up, i.e., a low-cost, low-quality prototype with the purpose of communicating an idea. They also documented both their final product and their team’s engineering design process in a five-minute video.

At the conclusion of the project during fall 2016, each student wrote and submitted a one-page reflection on how they thought their team used EM over the course of the project, and namely when and how it came into play. These  short written reflections addressed two questions: 

  1. In what ways do you think your team used EM during your redesign of the product for a family in another world? Specifically, give examples of how you and your team members demonstrated the 3Cs, the principles of Curiosity, Connections, and Creating Value. 
  2. What impact do you think EM brings to an engineering design process in general? 

For spring 2017, the assignment was modified such that students submitted their reflections as short, one-minute videos using a tool called VoiceThread. These reflections were done individually, in addition to their team video. The students were asked to address the following questions in their videos:

  1. How were you and your team entrepreneurial during your redesign of the product for individuals living in a developing nation?
  2. Did you and your team members demonstrate curiosity, making connections, and creating value? If yes, how? If not, why not? 

NOTE: Supporting resources for this case study can be found within its companion KEEN card (link below), which is also where the community can discuss the case and its broader topic.

Integration outcomes

The EGR 201 instructional team is about halfway to completing their redesign but look forward to gaining a better understanding of how more complete EM integration can impact this and other use-inspired design courses in the program. That said, an early success of the effort has been introducing some students to the idea of having an entrepreneurial mindset. The students involved in this class are in their second-year project course, so there is great potential for impacting their remaining two years. A reality is that students may not be thinking about their futures quite yet, at least not in detail.

Future plans

The EGR 201 team seeks to achieve greater integration of EM into the course by having additional projects incorporate an EM focus. This approach would allow instructors to introduce EM early in the course and then have students revisit EM in later projects. The team is also working on dedicating one class to each of the 3Cs and how it plays a role in the students’ project. Finally, there has been discussions about including EM as a formal course learning outcome.


Entrepreneurship is a design aspiration at ASU. That fact and being in an environment that supports EM helps facilitate and support our EM integration efforts. In addition, support from KEEN has helped the EGR 201 instructional team to achieve milestones, specifically when, in May 2017,  the course coordinators were awarded a KEEN Professorship Mini-Grant to continue integrating EM into EGR 201.

EGR 201 typically has six sections in the fall and one section in the spring. Multiple sections naturally require multiple faculty, all of whom must be on board with what is planned for the course. Course-wide buy-in from all instructors is an extremely important part of the integration effort. Faculty generally see the value in discussing EM. Sharing resources and progress supports EM integration as a group endeavor, and tools such as Dropbox and ASU’s learning management system have helped to ease the transition for instructors less familiar with the content.

At the same time, student buy-in continues to be a significant challenge. Some students are apprehensive about EM because they don’t necessarily see themselves as starting their own business or being entrepreneurial. How an instructor frames EM and discusses concepts like curiosity, connections, and creating value will play a large role in how students receive and make sense of the information. 

Continuously innovating as teachers helps fuel the redesign of this course. For example, course coordinators Adam Carberry and Samantha Brunhaver have been involved with a research project to create an instrument that assesses student entrepreneurial mindset, and this research activity has helped provide better insights into what is meant by the 3Cs. Similarly, Adam Carberry taught EGR 102 during the redesign phase to better understand connections between it and EGR 201, which he has been teaching since 2011. Sharing with colleagues at conferences is also helpful for getting feedback and new ideas. The course coordinators ran an EM related workshop at a KEEN conference.

Carberry taught EGR 102 during the redesign phase to better understand connections between it and EGR 201, which he has been teaching since 2011. Sharing with colleagues at conferences is also helpful for getting feedback and new ideas. The course coordinators ran an EM related workshop at a KEEN conference.


Brunhaver, Samantha R., Bekki, Jennifer M., Carberry, Adam R., London, Jeremi S., McKenna, Ann F. (accepted, to appear Sept. 2018). Development of the Engineering Student Entrepreneurial Mindset Assessment (ESEMA), Advances in Engineering Education.

Lewis, K., Moore-Russo, D., Cormier, P., McKenna, A., Johnson, A., Carberry, A., Simpson, T., Tucker, C., Kremer, G., Zappe, S., Shooter, S., Kim, C., Tranquillo, J., Williams, C., McNair, L., Paretti, M., Chen, W., and Gatchell, D. (2014). Assessment of Product Archaeology as a Framework for Contextualizing Engineering Design, Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference, Indianapolis, IN, ASEE-8971.

Lewis, Kemper, Moore-Russo, Deborah A., Kremer, Gul, Tucker, Conrad, Simpson, Timothy, Zappe, Sarah, McKenna, Ann F., Carberry, Adam, Chen, Wei, Gatchell, David, Shooter, Steven, Paretti, Marie, McNair, Lisa, and Williams, Christopher (2013). The Development of Product Archaeology as a Platform for Contextualizing Engineering Design, Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA, June 23-26, 2013.

McKenna, Ann F. Neumeyer, Xaver, and Chen, Wei (2011). Using Product Archaeology to Embed Context in Engineering Design, Proceedings of the International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering (IDETC/CIE) Conference, IDETC/CIE 2011, Washington, DC.

Lewis, K., Moore-Russo, D. A., Ashour, O. M, Simpson, T., Kremer, G., Neumeyer, X., McKenna, A. F., and Chen, W. (2011). Teaching the Global, Economic, Environmental, and Societal Foundations of Engineering Design through Product Archaeology, Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference, Vancouver, British Columbia, June 26-29, 2011.