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Open innovation within traditional engineering education

The importance of incorporating design thinking into traditional engineering education is ever-growing and necessary.

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As a mechanical engineering student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I am being trained to analyze problems from an engineering perspective: identify, ideation, analyze, prototype, and so on. While I have gained invaluable engineering analysis skills, I have found the program to be sorely lacking in the emphasis of creative, open innovation within engineering. 

Cal Poly only requires ME students to take one course in design, Philosophy of Design, which emphasizes the creative ideation process in engineering. Before that class, I felt that something was missing in my engineering education, and I realized that it was the opportunity to exercise the full extent of my creative ideas and abilities. After three creative engineering projects, such as building a functional (i.e., can shoot baskets without human players touching the ball) "ping pong basketball team" out of office supplies and foam core, a device for cleaning up the world's oceans, and a consumer product design challenge, I realized my true career ambitions: to help design an engineer a human-centric world.

I firmly believe that traditional engineering education needs to be taken a step further in order to accommodate the ever-growing sustainability issues of our world. Open innovation allows all ideas, from people of diverse experiences and backgrounds, to be considered as solutions to important problems. The solution often lies in multiple areas, such as art and human factors, not just in engineering calculations and scientific theorems.

I look forward to continuing my education in engineering with a graduate degree in human-centered design and engineering, and designing physical products that will address a need in this world.

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Rachel Kangas


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