The Segal Design Institute - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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The Segal Design Institute 

Contact Information:

Bruce E. Ankenman, PhD


The Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University fosters innovative design education throughout the undergraduate engineering curriculum. Segal combines excellent technical coursework with real life design projects; the courses are supported by a design center and a collaborative environment featuring real and virtual workplaces. Since it offers students a way to engage in problem-based learning about design throughout their undergraduate years, it develops the problem-solving skills that the engineering workplace requires.

All incoming engineering students take an innovative project-based design course - Design Thinking and Communication (DTC). DTC introduces students to the design process and its essential components of teamwork and communication. These projects require students to use various engineering tools and techniques to define the problem, generate alternatives, observe and interview users, build mockups, conduct design reviews, and produce models or prototypes. Projects culminate in a prototype, written report, and oral presentation.

DTC teaches a user-centered approach to design. We emphasize that the most technically elegant design solutions are destined to fail if they do not address real user (and stakeholder) needs. Moreover, needs cannot always be understood by simply asking questions. It is also necessary to observe users in actual settings and to test prototypes with real users.

This RERC will pursue a number of engineering design projects in the areas of "universal design" and rehabilitation technology for people with a disability.

This research is supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living, National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research, Grant Number 90RE5013