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In fall, 2007, Dr. Delcore launched Engineering for People and Markets, an interdisciplinary
initiative that brings together students and faculty from the Department of Anthropology,
Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Entrepreneurship Program. The core of
EPM involves recruiting anthropology, business and engineering students onto Enterprise
Teams (E-Teams) to work on technological innovations.
The goal of EPM is to better engage students in their own education through problem-based
learning. Dr. Delcore and his colleagues hope that student learning will improve
through their experience applying knowledge and methods to a real world problem.
Each team works on an innovative electronic device or process, while exploring the
needs and desires of its potential users and its market potential. Each task involves
the application of knowledge and concepts the students have encountered in their
other courses and training.
Interdisciplinary: Anthropology, Engineering and Business
The interdisciplinary component of EPM is also crucial to student learning. For
example, when anthropology students explain the insights of their discipline to engineering
students, and vice versa, their own comprehension improves. Aside from aiding student
learning, the ability to talk across disciplines is valuable in its own right. Ramakrishna
Nunna, a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Associate Dean of the
College of Engineering, says that conditions in the real world demand that engineers
know how to talk to non-engineers. The same can be said of students in the other
disciplines, as well. Business professionals in technology and other highly innovative
fields need to be able to communicate business principles to technical experts, and
to understand the technical limitations and opportunities before them.
While the development and marketing of new technologies naturally involves engineers
and business people, how does the anthropologist fit? Cultural anthropologists are
experts in the study of human values and behaviors, wherever humans can be found.
New technology has to fit the social and cultural context, and existing structures
of daily life. Anthropologists today work in the high tech industry, helping engineers
and designers understand the potential users of new devices and applications. Thus,
the anthropology student on the interdisciplinary team studies the potential users
of the device or process, and makes the appropriate design recommendations to her
The first two E-Teams are up and running in 2007-2008. One team is designing a better
TV remote control. The anthropologist on the team is fielding a research project
on TV-watching habits and remote control use. The other team is working on a device
that eases the experience of waiting for a table at a busy restaurant; the anthropologist
on that team is studying the phenomenon of waiting, and the specific nature of “waiting
for a table.”
In 2007-2009, EPM is being supported by a seed grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance.