Students in ENGR X55: Finding Genuine Design Opportunities worked in teams—4 projects across 3 countries—working with partners to prioritize design challenges.

In this experiential course offered by UM’s Center for Socially Engaged Design (C-SED), students learn the skills of socially engaged design during the winter semester and then spend 6–8 weeks during the spring/summer immersed in a field site working with a community partner to identify potential design opportunities. In 2019, students worked with four different partners in Ecuador, India, and the United States to identify assets and needs and understand priorities around design challenges in specific communities. The deliverables included a presentation of findings to their partner with an accompanying report that provides in-depth descriptions of the methods, captured data, recommendations, and design insights from their work.


SETCO Foundation, Gujarat, India
4 team members representing: School of Public Health, School
of Social work, Ross School of Business, College of Engineering

The SETCO Foundation focuses on healthcare, nutrition, education and
empowerment of women and children in the Panchmahal district of Gujarat,
India. Four C-SED students worked with SETCO Foundation to broadly identify
the highest priority challenges facing residents of 4 rural villages in Gujarat to
inform a more holistic strategy and direction of the foundation’s future work
in the district. The students facilitated mapping activities, focus groups and
conducted interviews in several hamlets (neighborhoods) to uncover these
insights with the SETCO Foundation.

Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, ID
3 team members representing: Mechanical Engineering,
Nuclear Engineering, Chemical Engineering

Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is hosting the construction of several
first-of-a-kind advanced nuclear reactors – which may serve as critical
components in the fight against climate change. However, their adoption
hinges on the success of community engagement efforts. A complex history
around nuclearization in the United States and globally has led to polarizing
views and perceptions on the energy source. A C-SED student team of three
students engaged with local leaders, decision-makers, and community
members in several regions across Idaho to better understand prevailing
perceptions of INL and nuclear energy. The project results are being used to
inform INL community engagement and communication strategies around
common themes from the team’s insights.

Nido de Vida, La Bolivarense, Ecuador
4 team members representing: School of Information, School of Public Health, College of Engineering

Through a partnership with Nido de Vida, a family-run educational and
agricultural association in rural Ecuador, this student team of four members
worked to map out the water sources in the area, as well as identify
challenges, barriers, and health risks around these sources in Nido de Vida’s
home community. The resulting research is helping Nido de Vida and the La
Bolivarense community increase their understanding of what water sources
exist, how they are being used, what might threaten the health of the
community. This data is informing possible paths forward to address local
challenges related to water and deforestation.

City of Ann Arbor Office of Sustainability and Innovation,
Ann Arbor, MI

3 team members representing: School of Public Health, School of Information,
Stamps School of Art & Design, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

Resilience Hubs are community-serving facilities designed to support
residents and coordinate resource distribution and services before, during, or
after climate related natural disasters. Students worked with the City of Ann
Arbor Office of Sustainability and Innovation to understand what resilience
means to Ann Arbor residents, how they prioritize challenges facing their
neighborhoods, and perceptions around natural disaster preparedness and
response. The results will inform the design and implementation of a resilience
hub pilot in Southern Ann Arbor.