Design thinking is both an ideology and a process, concerned with solving complex problems in a highly user-centric way. It focuses on humans first and foremost, seeking to understand people’s needs and come up with effective solutions to meet those needs. It is based heavily on the methods and processes that designers use, but it has actually evolved from a range of different fields—including architecture, engineering and business.
Dr. Robert Fleisig, PEng., Professor of Engineering Design, McMaster University will be joined by UX Engineer and Design Fellows Avani Mehta. Together they will lead audiences through an interactive segment focused on models to help “change-makers” tackle complex challenges facing communities worldwide.
Dr Robert Fleisig, PEng., is an Associate Professor (Teaching-stream) in the Walter G. Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology (SEPT) with a passion for inspiring empathy, creativity and interdisciplinary thinking in his undergraduate and graduate students as well as in our academic and local communities.
“I believe that for the university and our graduates to make impactful contributions to society it is no longer sufficient to only have disciplinary expertise. The ‘T-shaped’ graduate is one who is equally at home in the knowledge-centred work of his or her discipline (i.e., the stem of the ‘T’) and in work with individuals of diverse education, language, culture, beliefs, and values both within their organization and outside (i.e., the arms of the ‘T’).”
Dr Fleisig says the key to his teaching are empathy, experience, and reflection. In my first-year engineering course, undergraduate and graduate students from three faculties work together to create a device to help members of the local community with a complex and unique problem.
“In my graduate teaching at SEPT, my students work with university researchers, hospitals, and local business to identify important problems in health and sustainability to design, prototype, and implement innovative solutions that are meaningful to the community and have an economic impact. I have taught more than 10,000 undergraduate students and have impacted students across three faculties, local organizations, researchers, and a broad range of companies.”
Dr Fleisig’s current scholarly interests reside in reimagining university teaching for teaching-oriented faculty from the perspective of a design thinker. In 2018 He was awarded the prestigious Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Teaching Award and named a Fellow of the Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA) in 2022. He is a Co-Editor for the International Journal for Students as Partners and program lead for the Master of Engineering Design in SEPT.
Avani Kirit Mehta completed her B.ENG. in Electronics & Instrumentation Engineering, and graduated with an honours degree and distinction in 2018 from BITS Pilani Dubai. She then graduated with a Master of Engineering Design (M.Eng.) at McMaster University in 2020. She started as a full-time User Experience (UX) Designer with a start-up based in Toronto, and as part-time Design Thinking Fellow with McMaster University. A lot of small-scale companies tend to assign both research and design responsibilities of UX to a single individual, and she had this opportunity. She leveraged it to grow and practice in both these elements of UX. She later learnt how her interests inclined more towards research rather than design. This learning was also a consequence of her working as a Design Thinking Fellow where she had the opportunity to support her professors and masters’ students from a Design Thinker’s lens in various engineering design projects. Following her interests, she currently works as a full-time UX Researcher at CIBC, Toronto and continues as a part-time Design Thinking Fellow with McMaster. Her current interests lie in the field of applying design thinking principles to a wide spectrum of problem statements and solutioning human-centered designs for users.