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ASEE-SE Annual Conference 2022

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Final Paper
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“Science and Technology In Popular Culture”: The Influence of Politics, Entertainment, and Societal Norms On Engineering Education

The field of Science, Technology, and Society (STS) draws from a full range of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities to examine how science and technology simultaneously shape and are shaped by society, including politics and culture. Many engineering programs have turned to STS to provide students with conceptual tool kits to think about engineering problems and solutions in more sophisticated ways. The purpose of this study is to investigate how a new course titled “Science and Technology in Popular Culture” engages with the nontechnical skills engineering professionals require by examining how images in popular culture influence the work of scientists and engineers.

There is a clear need to create spaces where engineering students can freely discuss and understand the nontechnical influences of their profession. Often these conversations are brief, or simply do not exist in current engineering curricula. At the end of a previous course, for example, one student commented, “There has been no instance where I have talked about race in a serious in-depth discussion in any of my engineering classes. Consequently, I can infer that means that none of my peers have either. Nevertheless, the conversation has to be pushed if we’re going to get better at making ethical decisions around race.” How can the field of STS address these issues to prepare the engineers of the future? This work in progress paper examines the questions posed in “Science and Technology in Popular Culture,” such as, “What effect does popular culture have on the working lives of scientists, engineers, or policy makers?” The author builds on previous scholarship presented to ASEE and within STS to demonstrate how a discussion-based course challenges undergraduate engineering students to think more critically about the engineering design process’s integration of the social dimensions of engineering problems.

Bryn Seabrook
University of Virginia
United States


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