Integrating Design Thinking and Community-based Participatory Research to Achieve Environmental Justice for Engineering Education


Communities struggle with dismantling mechanisms perpetuating environmental injustice, even while work to address challenges of injustice continues to receive growing attention. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) offers a systematic process to address environmental injustices and to engage student-engineers. As the application of CBPR within engineering education is relatively new, much remains to be learned about its impacts for environmental justice (EJ) outcomes, student development, and design thinking in the context of engineering education. In this study we integrate CBPR and design-thinking, as tools for engineers, to support improved EJ in communities and to more effectively engage student-engineers in civil and environmental engineering. We respond to two research questions: Can CBPR provide a context-based approach to developing innovative research outcomes within an environmental justice context? Can the integration of student-engineers within a CBPR process teach new strategies for engineering research and improve attitudes towards engineering? Using an ethnographic narrative framework, we explore student-engineer learning and professional development. The experiences of two undergraduate students and one graduate student involved in a co-curricular research experience were evaluated through written and oral reflections of time spent while embedded within a community, conducting stakeholder interviews, and engaging in CBPR to develop EJ resources. This research contributes to engineering education by demonstrating how integrating design-thinking and CBPR can enhance student learning and community outcomes by emphasizing engineering principles of innovation, iteration and implementation. Additionally, how flexibility in the traditional engineering design process can more effectively identify, prioritize, and communicate community needs to stakeholders and decision-makers is emphasized.

Author Information
Janille Smith-Colin, Southern Methodist University, United States
Jessie Zarazaga, Southern Methodist University, United States
Collin Yarborough, Southern Methodist University, United States
Regina Nguyen, Southern Methodist University, United States
Odran Fitzgerald, Southern Methodist University, United States

Paper Information
Conference: IICE2022
Stream: Education

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon