Whatever else my students learn, I want them to know how to work well with people. This means clients — and perhaps even more importantly, other team members.
"I am very cautious when it comes to technology," says Professor Philip Asare, electrical & computer engineering. "It's a double-edged sword. Technology can make the incredible possible, but crazy things happen if the user is left out of the design."
Asare's expertise lies in engineering design where a computer is at the heart of the system. This could include self-driving automobiles, devices that allow you to remotely control your home's temperature, or even life support on the International Space Station. No matter what his students are designing, he requires them to keep users' goals in mind.
One such project involves medical device interoperability, in which patients are outfitted with monitors that enable caregivers to monitor their health. The goal is to create a system that will ensure the various devices communicate well with each other, aggregate collected information and, ultimately, recognize patterns that might otherwise have been missed. In the future, the system could also control treatment like fluids given through infusion pumps. "This can have important implications for research and for real-time decisions in the operating room and ICU," he says.
Asare notes that the medical field requires designers to meet the needs of a wide range of end users. "Obviously, we have patients, doctors and nurses to consider," he says. "But don't forget the policymakers who approve the devices, or the financial people who provide backing. Students often think engineering is about building and testing things in the lab, but often it's the non-technical aspects of a project that provide the greatest challenge."
Asare, who believes that diversity makes any team more creative, received a Multicultural Student Services Faculty Fellowship in 2015. He used the award to design a semester-long program, Harnessing the Power of Differences, that explored diversity, team-building and problem-solving.
"Whatever else my students learn, I want them to know how to work well with people," he says. "This means clients — and perhaps even more importantly, other team members. I want students from all backgrounds and all walks of life. We're going to think differently and come up with some truly innovative solutions."