ALTERNATIVE FUTURES AS A METHOD FOR EQUIPPING THE NEXT GENERATION OF DESIGNERS AND ENGINEERS
Editor: Erik Bohemia, Ahmed Kovacevic, Lyndon Buck, Peter Childs, Stephen Green, Ashley Hall, Aran Dasan
Author: Angheloiu, Corina; Chaudhuri, Godhuli; Sheldrick, Leila
Institution: 1: Imperial College London, United Kingdom; 2: Bright Little Labs, United Kingdom
This paper discusses how futures methods could be used to help emerging generations of designers and engineers to be better prepared for the demands of a rapidly changing future. Science and technology have a pivotal role in realising a better world; however, as the world changes increasingly rapidly, we are educating future engineers and designers for jobs and contexts that don’t yet exist. They instead need to be equipped to identify and exploit new opportunities by working across disciplines and considering multiple intervention points - from hard systems transitions, such as mobility or energy, to soft systems transitions, such as culture, identity or narratives. The fields of design pedagogy and futures studies bring significant insights to this challenge, including an array of methods, tools and frameworks for problem framing and problem solving through divergent and convergent thinking. This paper describes an intensive week-long workshop that used alternative futures as a prompt for teams of secondary school students (aged 16-17) with an interest in studying medicine, science and engineering. This week was part of Imperial College London’s Global Summer School and was one in a series of workshops run by the authors to build and test these methodologies by employing alternative futures to develop products for, and eventually in, the future. The results of this latest workshop suggest the potential for experiential learning to explore new ways of working and enable students to reflect and test their dominant assumptions about the future. Finally, the study highlighted the need for further research to better understand how students can embrace the dissonance between their stated preferred futures and the range of possible and probable futures.