Faculty Grant Fosters Innovation in Graduate Course
Agnes Scott College’s Laquita Blockson, faculty director of the master’s program in social innovation, and Carlee Bishop, faculty director of the master’s program in technology leadership and management, were awarded a VentureWell Sustainable Design Faculty Grant. The $29,662 grant supports strengthening and developing courses and programs that encourage STEM entrepreneurship and innovation. Blockson and Bishop’s proposal was 1 of 13 grant recipients chosen nationally.
The grant provides funds for Blockson and Bishop to incorporate sustainability and environmental responsibility into the Human- Centered Design and Implementa-tion graduate course that the grant enables them to team teach at Agnes Scott College. Decatur Makers, a local makerspace, and the college’s Center for Sustainability are serving as community and campus partners for this interdisciplinary course.
“In the course, students are guided through a three-step process of identifying a problem faced by users of a particular product, generating possible solutions for redesigning the product and bringing a plausible solution into production or operation,” says Blockson. “They learn various Graduate Program Laquita Blockson
design methods to help address a given challenge, all while privileging the experiences of the users.”
“With the grant, we are providing each student a prototyping kit, which provides an at-home capability for prototyping experimentation. This enables us to offer our students a hands-on polytechnic learning activity while accounting for COVID-19-related restrictions that limit students’ access to campus,” says Blockson.
“When we teach this course during the spring 2022 semester, in addition to providing students with prototyping kits, we will use the Decatur Makers’ makerspace, where students will have access to tools and equipment that will enable them to bring their design ideas to life.
The course’s theme for the spring 2021 and 2022 semesters is “Sustainability and Climate Change,” and the design challenge is sustainable agriculture. Blockson and Bishop anticipate select graduate students will present their design ideas at the 2021 Engaging Global Challenges Conference, which is focused on climate justice and being hosted by Agnes Scott this fall.
Blockson notes that human-centered design techniques and thinking skills can be applied within virtually any occupation and complement any discipline. The course’s major projects, supported in part by the VentureWell Sustainable Design Faculty Grant, will provide students with relevant experience that supports their professional success in a variety of fields and industries.