Generic Work

Negotiations and Play


Downloadable Content

open in viewer

This paper describes a negotiations module within a role-playing engineering course set in nineteenth-century Worcester, Massachusetts. Our course, “Humanitarian Engineering Past & Present: Worcester, 1885,” is a first-year, general education course at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The course includes engineering content within a humanistic frame that makes it ideal for general education. The course puts students in the roles of actual people living in a turn-of-the-century industrial city in central Massachusetts. Students learn and practice engineering concepts (engineering design, stakeholder analyses, mass balance, sewage treatment, material properties and selection, sewage properties and conveyance, statics and stress, filtration and chemical precipitation) while playing the roles of engineers, industrialists, elected officials, workers, scientists, public health officials, inventors, and city residents. In this course we introduce innovation and entrepreneurial mindset to an audience of students who may not think they are interested in the subject. Our role-playing game-based approach is intended to attract students to entrepreneurial thinking as well as other disciplinary content they may not have considered important to solving engineering problems. This paper describes a negotiations module, where students learn about negotiations, typically a highly emotional activity we engage in several times a day to reach agreements with others. In this hands-on, active learning experience, teams negotiate an employment agreement between pipe fitters and the city’s engineering department. Each team learns how to prepare for the negotiation by exploring each other’s needs, interests, and positions. Then, the students negotiate and experience the challenges of reaching an agreement that satisfies both parties. Our assessment materials include the outcomes of the negotiations themselves (whether teams reached an agreement and whether they met their own requirements) as well as student reflective essays on the experience and what they learned. We present this course module as a case study that can be adapted in different classrooms.

Date created
  • 6/24/17
Resource type
  • 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition
Rights statement
Last modified
  • 2020-09-22



Permanent link to this page: