Engineering | Slate Lab

Human Systems Engineering Education

Human Systems Engineering at Arizona State University uniquely bridges applied psychology and cognitive science, human-computer interaction and human systems integration, human factors, and user-centered design. By teaching engineering students about the people they are engineering for (e.g., clients and customers) and with (e.g., coworkers and interdisciplinary teams), and perhaps themselves as engineers, we believe that students will be more engaged, successful, and effective. The project spans mixed-method research and outreach activities, which have been generously supported by the National Science Foundation (1712328) and a Diane and Gary Tooker Professorship

Student Conceptions of HSE

We have developed and implemented a survey of students’ attitudes toward and conceptions of Human Systems Engineering. The Human Systems Engineering Attitudes Survey (HSEAS) was informed by prior engineering education instruments and has been iteratively refined over multiple deployments. Current findings suggest that engineering students (unsurprisingly) have doubts about the value of psychology applied to engineering, but introductory coursework (e.g., HSE 101) has a positive effect on these attitudes. Students possess general conceptual awareness of Human Systems Engineering (and related fields), but are largely unaware of key methods or impact. These “how” and “why” elements may be valuable targets for human-centered engineering education.

Relevant publications: Roscoe, Arnold, & Clark (accepted); Roscoe, Becker, et al. (2019).

Psychological Concepts in Engineering Projects

Ongoing analyses have examined the inclusion of human-centered and psychological concepts in engineering students’ project documentation. Specifically, final project reports in an introductory engineering course are analyzed using a qualitative framework to reveal the occurrence of human-centered concepts along with their focus (i.e., users or engineers), sources (i.e., instruction, research, or personal experience), and depth of discussion (i.e., definitions, examples, and explanations of effects). Current findings demonstrate that engineering students largely neglect human-focused concepts in favor of manufacturing details. When prompted by assignments, students may vaguely refer to design steps (e.g., empathize and ideate) or teamwork (e.g., consensus and delegate), but rarely to the thoughts and feelings of prospective users (or themselves). These findings demonstrate that psychology-informed instruction is a rich and untapped topic area for enriching engineering education.

References to human needs, goals, capabilities, or limitations are often limited. In documentation for the above design, students wrote, “Our purpose for this project is to build a backseat table for those people who want to eat or drink in the car.” This was the only reference to future users.

Relevant publications: Roscoe, Arnold, & Johnson (accepted); Roscoe, Johnson et al., (2018).

Multimedia Lesson Videos

Ongoing studies are developing and testing a series of Humans Systems Engineering multimedia lesson videos. These videos use a narrated “animated whiteboard” style to introduce engineering students to human-centered concepts such as Brainstorming, Creativity, Empathy, and Attitudes. Target concepts were chosen based on engineering students’ existing familiarity with the concepts, but with an additional focus on strategies and relevance to engineering (e.g., the “how” and “why”). Evaluations are assessing the learnability and design quality of the lessons.

Development of multimedia lessons has been integrated with a university course, HSE 427: Designing for Learning, in which students develop scripts, storyboards, and prototype videos on a chosen topic. Initial videos are refined through two rounds of iterative user testing. Students in the course also learn about cognitive, metacognitive, and motivational principles of learning along with example instructional design frameworks (e.g., ICAP and ARCS).


Screenshots from an Emotion in Design lesson by Jenna Forrey, featuring an introduction to emotional design and several concrete strategies.

Project Publications

  • Roscoe, R. D., Arnold, S. T., & Clark, A. T. (accepted). Bridging psychology and engineering: Undergraduate conceptions of human systems engineering. To appear in Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 2020 Annual Meeting (pp. xxx-xxx). HFES.
  • Roscoe, R. D., Arnold, S. T., & Johnson, C. K. (accepted). Human-centered and psychological concepts in undergraduate engineering project documentation. To appear in Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 2020 Annual Meeting (pp. xxx-xxx). HFES.
  • Roscoe, R. D., Becker, D. V., Branaghan, R. J., Chiou, E., Gray, R., Craig, S. D., Gutzwiller, R. S., & Cooke, N. J. (2019). Bridging psychology and engineering to make technology work for humans. American Psychologist, 74(3), 394-406.
  • Roscoe, R. D., Chiou, E. K., & Wooldridge, A. R. (Eds.) (2019). Advancing diversity, inclusion, and social justice through human systems engineering. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
  • Roscoe, R. D., Johnson, C. K., Lande, M., Craig, S. D., & Gray, R. (2018, October). A conceptual qualitative framework for assessing human systems engineering education outcomes and opportunities. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 2018 Annual Meeting (pp. 349-353). Philadelphia, PA: HFES.

Recent Highlights

SLATE Lab will be presenting two papers on our engineering education work at the upcoming virtual meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (October 5-9). Presentations will report on our surveys of student conceptions of HSE and analyses of engineering student projects.

Our project was approved for the DII@FSE Seed Funding program! The project, “ASU-ACCEL: Partnering engineering teams and special needs families for transformative experiential learning,” will engage ASU engineering students in designing assistive tools for and with families of special needs kids. The team includes Dr. Jennifer Blain ChristenMatt Levac, and Dr. Roscoe.