K-WIDE was conceived during a Bucknell Engineering College summer 2011 workshop on interdisciplinary programs and projects. Planning rapidly progressed and the scope expanded and crystalized around interdisciplinary teams working on authentic design problems under real constraints. Two core themes were developed at this time that have remained focal points of the program. First, K-WIDE would attempt to allow a natural intertwining of the design process and entrepreneurship to emerge out of the student experience. Second, the learning goals would include more than more than skills and knowledge and include explicit mindsets that we hoped to foster.
We identified first-and second-year students as good candidates, since they had not yet become too immersed in their individual disciplines. Any engineering first or second year who wanted to be a part of the program could join. Winter break was chosen to minimize outside distractions. In addition, there was no formal credit, payment or assessment and no industry sponsorship. This freedom allowed the instructors to try new teaching techniques and let the program evolve organically before, and even during, the program. One of the few requirements imposed on the students is that they would devote themselves completely to K-WIDE for the entire 10 days. 23 students from all majors in the engineering college participated in our first successful offering!
After the 2012 pilot of K-WIDE, Joe and Charles had time to deconstruct and better articulate the goals and objectives of the program. The emergent goal of K-WIDE is for students to grow in a number of mindsets and attitudes that will enable them to gain the most from the remainder of their time in college and beyond. In tackling a “wicked problem,” one that is so multidimensional that the solution cannot come from one domain of practice, students begin to explore how they might interact with the world as an engineer. It was this phase that lead to the K-WIDE hats, formal learning objectives and pedagogical techniques.
A second offering of K-WIDE occurred at Bucknell in Winter 2014. The only logistical change was to open the program only to sophomore engineers. The programming itself, however, changed in some significant ways. Our more clear understanding of the learning goals enabled us to be more intentional in our instruction, mentoring, framing and assignments. 17 second year engineering students from five different majors participated.
Between the first and second offering, Joe and Charles applied for and received a grant from the Kern Family Foundation to disseminate K-WIDE to others in the Kern Engineering Education Network (KEEN). The grant enabled us to engaging in the reflection above as well as published and present the work at conferences, create a video of the 2014 experience, offer a faculty workshop and travel to other universities to explore how K-WIDE could be implemented at other schools. To date, Ohio Northern University has offered a summer version of K-WIDE to a group of Brazilian exchange students and we expect other schools to adopt soon!
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