The SEED Case Study Initiative develops original case studies for engineering courses that highlight the impact of engineering work on engineers and society using real-world microhistories closely connected to any engineering subject.

Interested in integrating engineering case studies into your course? Reach out to Sara Hoffman, Assistant Director of Educational Content and Research Integration,

What is this project?

We partner with CoE faculty and instructors to conceptualize and implement SEED case studies in undergraduate engineering courses. Case topics are drawn from modern engineering practice and the history of technology and society. While case-based learning itself is not new, our approach is unique in identifying case topics specific to each faculty partner’s disciplinary focus and translating those examples into carefully scaffolded modules and workshops that explicitly explore dimensions of equity-centered engineering.

Why use case studies?

Our approach is designed to avoid “othering” socially engaged topics in engineering spaces and to help students recognize that equity and inclusion are integral to excellence in their academic and professional work as engineers. Cases explore issues of identity, power, and privilege embedded in engineering processes and provide opportunities to analyze the impacts of solutions on people and the environment.

What current cases exist?

There are currently over 20 completed case studies in our growing collection across three primary categories:

  • Global cases explore the intersection of identity, power, and privilege in engineering work processes and outcomes.
  • Local cases explore interpersonal relationships and structures within engineering work and educational environments. 
  • Historical cases explore the structural roots of inequities in engineering education and practice.


How are SEED case studies integrated into engineering courses?

Past faculty partners have used SEED cases in contexts ranging from first-year engineering sections to senior design courses. Cases can take the form of short reading/reflection assignments, full-length Canvas modules, or interactive workshops. For example:

  • FIRST-YEARS IN A INDUSTRIAL OPERATIONS-THEMED INTRODUCTION TO ENGINEERING section explored biases embedded in smart shelf technology, analyzed disparities in the potential impacts of cashless payment systems and targeted advertising, and reflected on how their own lenses informed their understanding of the case.
  • SOPHOMORES IN A CORE MECHANICAL ENGINEERING COURSE explored the problem of whiplash and analyzed Volvo’s process for developing and testing a new seat system to reduce sex-based disparities in injury rates
  • JUNIORS AND SENIORS IN A CORE MECHANICAL ENGINEERING course explored barriers overcome by 19th/20th century engineer Elijah McCoy, analyzed his innovative oil cup for locomotives as an example of a proportional feedback control, and reflected on why nuance is important in telling the stories of marginalized engineers
  • SENIORS IN AN ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING & COMPUTER SCIENCE DESIGN CAPSTONE explored barriers to console gaming for users with physical disabilities, analyzed Microsoft’s co-design process for the development of an adaptive Xbox controller with accessible packaging, and reflected on challenges that remain unaddressed by Microsoft’s initial design


What is the history of this project?

Funded through a grant from the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education in 2019, the Center for Socially Engaged Engineering and Design (C-SED) has built a library of case studies that span historical, local, and global contexts. Further investment by the College in Fall of 2021 enabled this work to continue and expand. In July 2022 C-SED collaborated with CRLT-Engin to co-power the SEED Case Study Initiative to bring together a wider span of expertise and support for faculty to integrate concepts of SEED into the classroom.

Anticipated future work (and timeline):

Over the next 3 years (2022-2025) CRLT-Engin and C-SED aim to collaborate with College of Engineering faculty to integrate SEED engineering case studies into courses, co-develop new cases in the technical domain of instructor courses, and collect input from faculty regarding the integration of cases. One goal is to ensure the case studies represent the diversity of topics across all CoE departments. It is also important that the pedagogy used in the courses is equity-focused, so CRLT-Engin teaching circles will be available for faculty to discuss best approaches.


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