The IDSS/SSRC Combatting Systemic Racism Seed Fund Program has awarded $50,000 to a research team that includes Professor Cynthia Breazeal and Anastasia K. Ostrowski of the Media Lab's Personal Robots group, Professor Maria Yang and Rima Das of the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering, Professor Catherine D’Ignazio of the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Professor Sara Atwood of Elizabethtown College, and Aditi Verma – MIT alum and incoming Assistant Professor at Aditi Verma of the University of Michigan and visiting scholar at Harvard University. Their funded proposal, "An Ethics, Equity, and Justice Audit and Reimagination of Engineering Education," builds on their project Design Justice Auditing.
The project will use a framework the team has created to (1) perform an audit of engineering design pedagogy and how it considers Design Justice, (2) design pedagogical interventions to equip students to consider ethics, equity, and justice and actively combat racism using their designs, and (3) evaluate the impact of these interventions. The team will complete the research at a cross-section of institutions of varying types: a private technical institution (MIT), a large public university (University of Michigan), and a small liberal arts college (Elizabethtown College). At the University of Michigan and Elizabethtown College, the team will also be piloting assessing the efficiency and impact of pedagogical interventions in capstone engineering design course sequences to examine how design constraints are established, how stakeholders are chosen and prioritized, and how design can be used to explicitly combat systems of oppression that are embedded in our society and environment. Instructors and students will be engaged to focus on how students are considering the impact of systemic racism throughout the design process and actively creating designs that seek to dismantle racist structures and premises inherent in design practice and pedagogy.