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To See the World Anew: Learning Engineering through a Humanistic Lens


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This paper describes a role-playing game developed by faculty and students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute to teach engineering within a rich cultural and historical context. Based on the successful Reacting to the Past series of role-playing games developed for humanities courses, this game differs in that its focus is engineering (a nineteenth-century sewerage project in Worcester, MA) and it is designed to include science experiments (water sampling), original research using nineteenth century technical and historical/cultural material, data analysis (geospatial mapping of nineteenth-century data on pollutants, populations, and sewerage overflows), arguments from data, and cross-cultural communication. Developed in a humanities department with undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students and later expanded in collaboration with research librarians and engineering faculty, the course is intended to engage students deeply in engineering issues – including offering a design project – while also immersing them in the cultural, historical, economic, and social conditions that influence engineering decisions. Ultimately, the goal of the game is to allow students to experience the world of engineering as a complicated, challenging, and satisfying enterprise that requires and rewards not only technical expertise, but also sensitivity to human contexts and diverse points of view.

Date created
  • 7/8/15
Resource type
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Last modified
  • 2020-09-22



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