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From STEM to STEAM: A Blueprint for a Transdisciplinary Research and Teaching Lab in Materials, Engineering, and Design

Prof Max Fickel | Duale Hochschule Baden-Wurttemberg Mosbach (DHBW Mosbach)

From STEM to STEAM: A Blueprint for a Transdisciplinary Research and Teaching Lab in Materials, Engineering, and Design

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The threat of climate change represents an enormous challenge and ultimately demands a large scale transformation of society to find solutions to the extreme complex and highly interdependent problem types immanent. In this context, sustainable technologies are necessary but not a sufficiency. Recent scientific reports argue that technology alone will probably not meet the demanding targets. Therefore, significant changes in behaviour are needed at the same time. In this context, the arts, and especially product design, gain their importance: In contrast to engineering, they focus on emotive experience thereby establishing a relationship between the user and the product exceeding the pure functional application. However, to introduce sustainable technologies in large scale, as the relevant systems are highly interdependent, development efforts must not only partially focus on technical systems and consumers independently, but more importantly, also on the interplay and interlinkages between those. This means that the entire socio-technical framework has to be considered simultaneously in a true transdisciplinary approach. Although in product development industrial design does belong among the engineer's most important partners, there are still preventable difficulties hindering efficient collaboration across the domains. This article reports on recent findings from a research project at the Royal College of Art, London. In particular it describes novel methods and tools for transdisciplinary collaboration and knowledge exchange in materials, engineering and design and incorporates the findings in a proposal for a transdisciplinary research and teaching lab.