497-110: STEM Education Innovation 2

Meeting Day/Time
Wednesdays from 1:50 to 4:30 pm
Staff, TBD
Appropriate Majors
All interested students are welcome.

The STEM Education Workshop will be comprised of up to 100 students organized as approximately 20 interdisciplinary teams. The STEM Education Workshop teams will be coordinated by a team of faculty members with complementary expertise in (a) innovation methods to guide the semester process and (b) expertise in STEM education innovation, digital service design, entrepreneurship, community engagement and urban systems.

Community engagement and social innovation represent broad areas of opportunity for exploring some of the most challenging problems of our times, but which offer rich possibilities for having a profound impact on people’s lives, whether at the level of the neighborhood, the urban metropolis, the rural county, the nation or the planet. This IPRO theme can be very rewarding for students passionate about applying their energy and creativity to improve the lives of others and making the world a better place while at Illinois Tech. In collaboration with local, national and international organizations, IPRO teams apply their expertise and passion for applying appropriate technology and creative strategies to meet vital social needs.

STEM Education. STEM Education is at the forefront of thinking by the public, academic institutions, workplace organizations and government bodies. With the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards and a push to inspire K-12 student interest in STEM careers, organizations view this as an opportunity to incorporate STEM outreach into their missions. With the help of Motorola Solutions Foundation’s grant partners and others, students interested in STEM innovation have the opportunity to collaborate with such organizations to research, design and prototype innovative concepts that can meet each organization’s unique STEM mission. This may include collaboration with Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, Lincoln Park Zoo or other organizations with a focus on young people as their constituents.

Interdisciplinary teams that choose to focus on STEM topics will learn and apply a variety of tools for information gathering, data evaluation, ideation, implementation and testing. Students will develop an appreciation for the multiple moving parts in a client-based project through engagement with a community partner organization that has a STEM-based mission.

This course is relevant for those: (1) who are interested in STEM outreach, (2) interested in learning how to manage client relationships, and (3) whose careers will involve direct interaction with clients and community partners.

Global Health & Well-Being. This IPRO topic area is focused to identifying opportunities for new products, services or business models that address global challenges. These challenges may be those articulated by various international or philanthropic organizations, or identified by students or faculty based on their insights or personal experiences. A particular area of focus is to address the needs of developing countries and the world’s poor, but there may be other broad global issues that affect other regions and populations. Programs and organizations that offer perspectives on global challenges include the UN Millennium Project, MEDLIFE, International Development Enterprises (IDE) (http://www.ideorg.org), Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), etc. Global challenge topics may also surface through other venues at IIT, including the Armour College of Engineering themes (health, energy, water, security), Institute of Design workshops, other IPRO team projects, other IIT colleges, etc.

The Global Challenges topic area offers a robust set of opportunities for student exploration and application of user-centered design methods. For example, teams may focus on developing extremely affordable products that can serve the rural poor of the world. The significant challenge facing our global society is to address the needs of the two billion poor in the world who live on less than $3.00 per day and 1 billion of these live on less than $1.00 per day. These two billion suffer from many deficiencies including contaminated water or lack of sufficient water, inadequate shelter and lack of access to affordable and sustainable energy for cooking, heating and other lifesaving and enriching uses like lighting and communications.

Interdisciplinary teams that explore global challenges will develop a deep understanding of a particular user need and opportunity through user-centered design methods. This leads to creative, simple and appropriate solutions that are extremely affordable and can be considered for local manufacture and supply.

General Overview of the IPRO Workshop Format

The IPRO workshop format gives students the opportunity to choose a broad, overarching theme but leave their options open regarding a specific team topic under the theme. The IPRO workshop sections replace the IPRO 397-xxx and IPRO 497-xxx course sections that have been offered for some time.

Individual topic offerings within a workshop include those conceived by (a) faculty members based on their research or contemporary marketplace challenges and opportunities, as well as (b) IPRO teams within the workshop that are motivated to pursue challenges and opportunities based on their own research insights, interdisciplinary interests and passion. In addition, each workshop offers students a choice between (a) a project experience that emphasizes hands-on prototyping, programming, etc. vs (b) a project experience that emphasizes analysis and planning, although all experiences will have elements of both.

 While each workshop has a distinctive, overarching theme, pursuit of challenges and opportunities, and the development of concepts and solutions that have value, requires the application of a toolbox of enabling technologies, techniques and ways of thinking and decision making in various ways and at various levels. This challenges students to apply the body of knowledge associated with their disciplines that can include the following:

  • Data science/data mining/predictive analytics
  • Mobile apps/social media/digital humanities/networks/cyber-security
  • Advanced materials/systems thinking/mobility/infrastructure
  • Political and societal discourse/health and well-being/education and training.

Innovation is often characterized as a great idea executed well and thus capitalizing on the fun, excitement, challenge and potential of community engagement and social innovation topics — via the melding of user-centered design thinking based on insights, brainstorming and prototyping (the great idea) with the rigorous application of engineering and other transformative design methods (executed well) — creates a compelling experience for everyone involved.


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