I am intrigued by connected fitness technologies (i.e. activity trackers) and their behavioral change potential.  I recently partnered with The Atlanta Chapter of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), Wahoo Fitness and the Vibe Ride, an indoor cycling studio in Atlanta, GA, to design and co-facilitate a clinic on situating a role for connected fitness technologies in group fitness:  Accelerated by conservations had through a burgeoning collaboration with Professor Keely Clay, Professor Apparel and Textile Technology (ATT), Okay Nwoke, Founder of the ATL Fashion Tech Collective, and Valerie Washington, Senior KSU Industrial and Systems Engineering student, this clinic not only served as a “sandbox” for understanding opportunities and challenges, as highlighted in Winchester and Washington (2015) and a recent NYT article, “Where Wearable Technology Ends Up (Hint: Not Your Wrist)” but elucidated specific design opportunities in engaging their use specifically among underserved groups in increasing physical activity (PA) levels.  Empirical studies are currently planned and industry collaborators are actively being sought.

As represented by the challenges in the connected fitness space, the problems facing the 21st century engineer are daunting and the need for a new means by which to equip her in tackling these challenges is paramount.  A need to approach engineering design more systemically, beyond traditional disciplinary silos, both in problem space exploration and solution space generation is paramount.  This is especially of import as engineered systems are more deeply engaged, beyond the workplace, into the deep recesses of the lives of individuals. 

It is important to note that these lives are often much different than that of the traditional engineer or designer; substantiating & motivating the need for (1) more diverse voices and perspectives in the STEM pipeline and (2) research and teaching opportunities offering engineering and design application contexts that resonate with and impact a more diverse constituency (e.g. more than 60% of Under Armour’s connected fitness technology users are women).  Our work, Making systems engineering real: lessons learned in using current events as case studies in instructing systems engineering fundamentals, published and presented at the 2015 Systems and Information Engineering Design Symposium speaks to this particular need and begins to offer pedagogical strategies & tactics in supporting this belief.

In offering more impactful and innovative solutions, it is clear that today’s engineer must not only have a grasp of the technical aspects of systems design but have an appreciation and understanding of perspectives and analogous techniques that deepen our empathy for the user, the human, and her context of use throughout the development lifecycle.  This notion is illustrated in our recently published work in the Health and Technology journal, A conceptual model for the role of storytelling in design: leveraging narrative inquiry in user-centered design (UCD).  It is my continued objective to offer an inclusive learning and discovery environment where this approach to engineering can be fostered, engaged, and evolved.