Before classes begin this fall, the College of Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University will offer its incoming first-year students the opportunity to earn an “Introduction to Design Thinking” credential from the VCU da Vinci Center for Innovation.
“This industry-recognized credential is part of our overall strategy to provide a modern engineering education,” said Gregory E. Triplett, Ph.D., the college’s senior associate dean for academic affairs and a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “We are committed to preparing our engineering students for solving new engineering challenges.”
Design thinking, or human-centered design, focuses on the experience of an end-user, said Garret Westlake, Ph.D., executive director of the da Vinci Center. Westlake cites Apple’s iPhone as “a great example of an innovative product that was designed to meet user needs. The result is the brand loyalty and iconic nature of the iPhone.”
Training in the essentials of design thinking has been a popular offering as part of other programs at the da Vinci Center, a collaboration of VCU’s schools of the Arts and Business and colleges of Engineering and Humanities and Sciences to advance cross-disciplinary innovation and entrepreneurship.
“Design thinking, like systems engineering, is at the heart of how engineers solve problems,” said Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D., the Alice T. and William H. Goodwin, Jr. Dean of the VCU College of Engineering. “These are core skills that are critical for all types of engineering. Not only do the individual parts need to function within a larger system, but users must want to use a technology in order for it to have value within the system. Design thinking informs the entire process. We are excited to be able to give this opportunity to our students at the beginning of their education at VCU Engineering.”
Students who complete a da Vinci Center workshop will earn a certificate through corporate trainer ExperiencePoint that is recognized by employers. “It’s not just a VCU credential,” Westlake said. “This will make VCU Engineering students more competitive for internships and other opportunities earlier in their academic career.”
In August, the da Vinci Center plans to hold multiple sessions of the virtual workshop, which uses engaging simulations and includes opportunities for smaller groups of students to meet each other through videoconferencing.