01 Mar Empathy key focus to Engineering Solutions: DkIT Seminar Feb 2019
Encouraging the next generation of Engineers to embed empathy in Design.
The importance of adopting an interdisciplinary approach to biomedical product design and development was highlighted by Yvonne Brady, CEO of EVB Sport and Engineers Ireland Council representative for the Biomedical Division at a recent seminar held in Dundalk Institute of Technology. Jointly sponsored by DkIT School of Engineering and DkIT School of Business and Humanities, the Seminar dealt with experiences at the technology-business interface and the need for interdisciplinary understanding as a core requirement for success.
Multidisciplinary Approach to product design
The seminar heard from Yvonne that real understanding of client needs, and product satisfaction can only be achieved if a broad spectrum of technical, medical and commercial expertise works together from the outset of the product development cycle. Design philosophy continues to evolve to help foster more complete design solutions within ever tightening financial constraints. Yvonne referred to the increased need for empathic understanding by engineers of actual consumer behaviour and needs.
With regard to the biomedical sector, this empathy is increasingly valuable as the ultimate design solutions impact directly on clients’ quality of life. EVB’s continuing evolution of their engineered sportswear for core muscle support has benefited from the input of design engineers, medical professionals, clinical advisors, financial experts and special purpose manufacturing engineers. As part of a continuing development of the product range further research and testing will be undertaken by a team of Biomedical Engineers in University College Dublin and Queens University Belfast.
Empathize Stage of Design Thinking
Citing the Empathize stage of the Design Thinking Model proposed by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford ( d.school ) , Neil Mc Loughlin, Technology Transfer Manager at DkIT Regional Development Centre reinforced Yvonne’s central thesis. Designers generally solve problems that they don’t have personal experience of themselves, hence the importance of embedding empathy in design. Empathy allows engineers to set aside their own assumptions about the world in order to gain insight into users and their needs. For engineers, this means having increased openness to and communication with a range of other expertise. The importance of the biomedical industry to Ireland’s economy, accounting for 8% of GNP and close to 30,000 highly skilled employees means that the innovation capacity of this sector could benefit enormously from adoption of the Empathize model.
Graduates designing solutions for a better world
Both Yvonne and Neil were sharing their experiences and knowledge with a group of DkIT Mechanical Engineering and Business students who have just completed a single semester interdisciplinary design project cycle. Neil asserts that exposure to interdisciplinary team based problem solving is essential to the formation of the engineer of the future. Yvonne is also optimistic about the future of engineering education in Ireland. According to Yvonne ‘the emphasis on transferable skills and interdisciplinary experiences within engineering programmes will pay future dividends as graduates draw on their educational experiences and apply these within the biomedical sector’.