Shareables : systems for rapid prototyping of IoT devices to broaden participation in engineering design
Author(s)Nietner, Larissa F
Systems for rapid prototyping of Internet of Things devices to broaden participation in engineering design
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Mechanical Engineering.
David R. Wallace.
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The thesis outlines the development of a design activity and toolkit for connected devices, which provide opportunities for social impact through technical creativity. Statistically, girls place higher value on social impact than their male counterparts, while they see less how engineering can have relevant social impact. These two factors contribute to girls tend to losing interest in STEM, often during middle school, so a mindset change is desirable to achieve a motivational and thus educational effect. Creative, innovative engineering activities with perceived social impact may motivate middle and high school girls and build their confidence in their ability to impact people's lives with technology they create. This work tests this hypothesis using different forms of a design activity that enables students to collaboratively build personal and wearable smart devices. Examples of creations based upon this design toolkit include connected medical bracelets, physical activity monitoring and other devices. Design requirements for intrinsically motivating and engaging experiences are derived from literature and practical examples in psychology, behavior and education research. A creative experience is based on these frameworks and is prototyped to test engagement, attraction, mindset change and other parameters with adolescent girls. This offers new working methods for the human-centered design process around complex systems design. Building on focus group experiments and experience testing, a hardware toolkit is developed, which combines modular sensing devices with a wirelessly connected cloud-based programming application. Sensors include accelerometers, temperature and pulse sensors. A multi-instance implementation of IBM's Node-Red interface is adapted and customized to form the basis of an interactive, audio-graphical program and application editor. The realization of this toolkit allowed for conducting experimental workshops and for quantifying an increase in participants' self-efficacy and interest in design and engineering as a result of the intervention. A fundamental change in many girls' mindset was observed in multiple experiments with the prototype systems, regarding both creative self-efficacy and engineering perception. Girls who initially thought of themselves as "not creative" were able to contribute viable, innovative ideas when they were introduced to the toolkit concept. Once equipped with adequate tools, ideas could form and come to surface. An important finding from experimental workshops was was that even girls with extensive prior STEM or coding experience showed a significant increase in their self-efficacy in using technology for social impact. The opportunity to impact a range of personally relevant areas adds purpose and meaning to existing skills. In the same experiments, interest in an engineering career also increased to a significant degree. In a separate analysis, the effect of instruction style on self-efficacy and motivation is investigated. It is shown that it is critical to encourage participants to reflect on the social impact of their creation in order to convey a relevant real-world experience ("I enjoyed it because I made something useful"). Based on workshop findings, detailed feature requirements specific to the toolkit are identified and implemented over multiple iterative design stages. A web platform that allows students to share, collaborate on and interact with each other's projects is developed to provide means for long-term engagement beyond the experimental workshop settings. This work contributes research methodology for quantifying the success of motivational interventions. Observed sensitivities and input gathered by participants inform design principles for similar educational experiences.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering, 2017.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 175-184).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology