Adonis Diaries

“How would you like to fit Human Factors in the engineering curriculum?”

Posted on: October 8, 2008

Article #20 in the series of “What’s that concept of Human Factors in design?”

“How would you like to fit Human Factors in the engineering curriculum?” (April 13, 2005)

I would like that the Human Factors in engineering be a required course to all the engineering disciplines and architects, and any field requiring designing systems and objects, such as graphic designers…

Human Factors in design need to be taught in the first two years in order for design processes to have the human objective nailed down.

The engineering students were awe-struck that there is a whole body of knowledge, specifically targeted to improving their designs, that there are new important set of criteria, which they agree with, but were never exposed to in their design training.

Human Factors in design course was an eye opener to the various problems that engineers will have to deal with, once they leave the university setting and move on to the working environment. Engineering students were following a one-dimensional view of the world through equations, number crunching and manipulation of formulas that permitted them to solve simple engineering problems, and may be a few design problems that never included the end users in the equation.

Students were exposed to problems of shift work, discrimination based on age and gender, occupational mental stress, occupational physical pains and aches, potential risks and injuries, human errors and their consequences, and the urgency to target the end users whom will use their designs.

Next, I would like that all engineering disciplines be required to take the “design of experiments” course. It is a pre-requisite for industrial engineers in their last two years curriculum. This course of experimental design is highly important for several reasons:

First, the course material in Human Factors is pregnant with statistical results drawn from experiments which use human as subjects in the experiments. Unfortunately, the design of experiment is not required for the other engineering disciplines and not even offered or encouraged as an optional alternative. I have a real hard time explaining through examples the difference among the independent variables, the dependent variables and control variables and may be a couple of students finally end up comprehending how experiments are designed.

Second, how could an engineering graduate update his education and continue to keep pace with the practice if he cannot read research papers?  The process of designing and conducting experiments is tedious, time-consuming and requires skills. Students have no idea how experiments are done and their final projects are very inefficient.

Their experiments are basically of the type one independent variable and one dependent variable, like scientists used to perform in the 18th century.  Students have to perform several sets of these inefficient experiments for their final project while one well designed experiment would do. Nowadays, inference experiments or cause and effects experiments can easily be designed with three factors or independent variables and two dependent variables and permit good interpretation of the statistical results which provide a wealth of information on the interactions of the factors in a single experiment.

Thirdly, I would like that industrial engineers be offered an optional course on the cognitive aspects of Human Factors since computer information processing and communication is the sin qua of this age of technological advancement and mass accessibility to information. More importantly, this follow-up course will allow students to design, conduct and run a complete experiment using human subjects, learn the process and procedures of comprehending research papers and the validity of the explained experiments and have a hand on designing a simple interface.

I am leaning toward starting with the design of an interface from the beginning and whenever common sense dictates certain sections in the design to actually design an experiment to validate the common sense assumption.

2 Responses to "“How would you like to fit Human Factors in the engineering curriculum?”"

Hey there just happened upon your blog via Bing after I
entered in, ““How would you like to fit Human Factors in the engineering curriculum?” | Adonis Diaries” or something similar (can’t quite remember exactly). In any case, I’m relieved I
found it simply because your subject material is exactly what I’m searching for (writing a university paper) and I hope you don’t mind
if I collect some material from here and I will
of course credit you as the source. Thanks for your time.

disseminate this urgent need to graduating engineers who cares about the safety and health of users and operators and design accordingly…

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October 2008

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