Engineering for Humanity


The Course

This course introduces students to engineering problem solving, beginning with understanding client needs and ending with implemented, adaptable, adoptable, and sustainable solutions. This course draws equally on empathetic and ethnographic methods and on a technical understanding of the problem and solution domains. Over the semester, students learn about and with their clients; they identify specific challenges that their clients face; and together with their clients they develop concrete solutions to address these challenges. Students leave Engineering for Humanity with a grounded understanding of the engineering problem solving process, experience in participant-observer fieldwork, and having made a concrete difference in the lives of members of our community.  Students identify and design their service projects while working with senior citizens in surrounding communities.

Caitrin created and first taught this course with Lynn Andrea Stein. She and Ela Ben-Ur then revised it and co-taught it for several years.  Tess Edmonds joined the team for the 2017 offering. The course received key financial support from the Metrowest Health Foundation.


Local Students and Seniors Team Up

Olin program combines engineering, humanity

Design for Aging: Perspectives on Technology, Older Adults, and Educating Engineers

Does the development of new technologies invariably contribute positively to the daily lives of older adults in the contemporary United States and elsewhere? Eleven years into teaching anthropology to engineers, and five years into co-teaching a course on design for aging called “Engineering for Humanity,” my answer is: Not always, but we can make it so. 

Additional Links

“The Impacts of Service Learning on Students and Community Members: Lessons from Design Projects for Older Adults.” Paper presented at Frontiers in Education Conference [FIE], Madrid. With Lynn Andrea Stein, Sharon Grimshaw, Elizabeth Doyle, Lois Camberg, and Ela Ben-Ur. 24 October 2014.

2012. Stein, L. A., and C. Lynch, "Building Bridges in Our Backyards: Engineering,Service Learning, and Our Elder Neighbors," Work in Progress Paper, Frontiers In Education, Seattle, Washington, October.

For More Information: Please visit this Google Drive folder that includes syllabus, assignments, and other resources about the course (including a list of scholarly publications). We ask that people let us know what materials they adapt for their own use! This material is from 2015 and we hope to make the more recent revised and improved curriculum available in summer 2018.