DS 123: Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2023)

Year: 2023
Editor: Buck, Lyndon; Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik
Author: Georgiev, Georgi V.; Milara, Iván Sánchez; Soomro, Sohail Ahmed; Casakin, Hernan; Nanjappan, Vijayakumar
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Center for Ubiquitous Computing, University of Oulu, Finland; Sukkur IBA University, Pakistan; Ariel University, Israel
Section: Ethical, social and/or environmental issues in design and engineering, and their education
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2023.39
ISBN: 978-1-912254-19-4


Education in digital fabrication design is characterized by an active learning environment in which ideas are developed into prototypes. The manner in which design activities are carried out, the subject matter that is learnt, and the kinds of outputs are all impacted by this environment. Available information concerning sustainability practices and how affects students’ learning and skill acquisition is scarce. Therefore, the main goal of this study was to use a course to evaluate learners’ sustainability practices and educational experience in a digital fabrication class. The course was designed for first-year university students. It covered the fundamentals of design and digital fabrication, the design of physical items, including electronics design, embedded programming, as well as 3D and 2D design. Throughout seven weeks, students were encouraged to create and implement their own ideas by designing and building a physical prototype that interacts with its surroundings. They learned how to develop basic interactive prototypes by employing mechanical, electrical, and software components. Students worked in teams of three or four members, and as part of their learning, they were required to document their process on a weekly basis. The online documentation and the final design prototype were the main deliverables of the course. The course examined in this study implemented explicit and detailed sustainability requirements as evaluation criteria that included: reusing components, choosing adequate and sustainable materials, building instead of buying, and easy to reuse project components. Based on data collected from students’ documentation, produced prototypes, course grades, and a pre and post-course self-reported survey, sustainable practices and learning aspects in the sustainability courses were analyzed. The survey focused on the following four scales: self-perceived skills, confidence, motivation, and enjoyment, each represented by five technological dimensions of instruction, such as 2D and 3D design, electronics, programming, and use of tools and devices in digital fabrication space. Results showed that high-score design outcomes produced by the students included sustainability elements based on the use of materials and processes of the digital fabrication laboratory. Students were concerned with assembling and disassembling reused components, as well as reducing generated waste and emissions, which was found to be critical for effective and sustainable digital fabrication practices. Generally speaking, findings showed that sustainability as a process and sustainability about the final prototype should be addressed differently. This requires timely actions on sustainability by both students and instructors. Intervention programs should be aware of these sustainability issues affecting digital fabrication design, without compromising design education iterative prototyping and learning.

Keywords: digital fabrication, prototyping, makerspaces, sustainability practices


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