Designing Technology for Girls and Women

Teaching Design Thinking and Doing

Engineering 39D/Womens Studies 39E (2 units)

Designing Technology for Girls and Women

Course Objectives:

This course will cover gender issues associated with new product development from a human-centered design perspective. Students will learn to apply state-of-the-art information technology and new tools in product development to tackle and design solutions to crucial societal problems. The problems and the populations the class serves will be determined by the students through service work conducted during the first two weeks of class, but could include problems in energy, health care, education, transportation, underserved community groups, and the environment. Students will have an opportunity to work in multidisciplinary design teams, give both individual and group oral presentations and attend a Saturday interactive design workshop with target users and industry sponsors. Students can expect to depart the semester understanding new product development processes as well as useful tools, techniques and organizational structures that support new product development practice. This class will work closely with the Institute of Women and Technology (now called the Anita Borg Institute) and supporting companies in the SF Bay area. The mission of IWT is to increase the impact of women on all aspects of technology and to increase the positive impact of technology on the lives of the world’s women. The students will have an opportunity to present their conceptual designs to other student groups at the IWT conference in April.


Alice M. Agogino, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Jennifer Mankoff, Professor of Computer Science, (now at CMU)

Class Meetings:

Lectures/Studio: Th, 3-5:00 pm 3116/3117B Etcheverry Hall

Academic Integrity:

We encourage full group and class collaboration on all aspects of this course.  It is almost impossible to share too much information in product development.  We do expect that all team members will contribute substantially to the project efforts, although some students will choose to devote themselves to the projects beyond what is required for the course.  Students will be asked to critique and contribute to the development projects of others in the class in a cooperative, supportive environment, and will be asked to submit critiques of their own group and group members during the course of the semester.

Reading Materials:

Most of the required readings will be on the “Blackboard” course website  at Readings that are only available in hard copy will be available in the class lab and engineering library.


Your course grade will be determined as follows:

  • 20% on the quality of your preparation for and participation in class discussions
  • 10% on the quality of your individual assignment solutions
  • 40% on the quality of your team’s work on project-related assignments and presentations
  • 10% on the quality of your individual final project deliverables (lessons learned and design journal)

During the semester, we will periodically ask for individual assessments of the contributions made by members of your team to the team project.  These assessments may be considered in preparing your final team grade.

Individual Assignments:

All individual assignments are to be submitted via the class web site prior to the start of class on the day they are due. Individual assignments are to be submitted through the digital (student) drop box and will be reviewed by faculty members.  (They are not visible to other students.) Specific instructions will be given for each homework assignment as to what it should be named. Always bring one copy of your homework to class, as we will frequently ask you to share your results in class.

All project deliverables (except the project proposal and the sketchbook/journal) are to be completed as a team.  Please deliver all assignments according to the following format:

  • Please submit your materials to the course website. Project deliverables should be posted to your group pages on the class website where they will be visible to all members of your group as well as all faculty members and coaches (but not to members of other groups).
  • You should plan to maintain a history of your project deliverables on your group website so that the faculty can review your progress over time, not just your most recent output.
  • Be concise. We like assignments that are 2-5 pages in length when possible
  • With each project deliverable, please provide a short (less than one page) description of the process your group adopted in completing the assignment and reflections on its effectiveness. You should also comment on any lessons learned related to team dynamics or project management.
  • Please develop a naming scheme for the things you post to your group website that makes obvious what those things are.  In particular, you should name the links to the files that are intended for faculty review by using as the first word of the name the letters DEL (short for deliverable).  Follow DEL with an indication of what the document is.  For example, when you submit your mission statement for faculty review, name the link DELmissionstmt.


Each individual in the class is required to maintain a design journal throughout the semester to be turned in at the final project presentation. The journal will be returned at the end of the semester. This journal should include your individual thinking (both imagery and words) pertaining to your project. Think of it as a diary of sorts so be sure to date each page. You may sketch pictures, paste in pictures, write words, or choose any other approach that works for you to capture your ideas, thoughts, and reflections about your product and your project.  The journal should be used both to capture ideas about the product itself as you move through the process, but also to document thoughts and insights on the process of product development, group dynamics, project process, etc.  Inventors do this as it helps to document when they came up with an original idea (useful in the patenting process); engineers do this to work out complex technical details; and designers do this to generate lots of ideas (as ideas feed off of one another); project managers use journals as a management tool to generate “lessons learned” and “best practices” to help run future product development projects more effectively.  Only the faculty will see these journals; no one else will see them unless you choose to share.  Your design journal will count towards your grade on your individual project deliverable.

Working with your Team

For some of you, this will be your first experience in working on a collaborative, cross-functional team. Part of the learning in this course is to assess patterns of cooperation and team dynamics and to reflect on both the behaviorial and organizational challenges your team faces.  While teams vary from semester to semester, we find that good organizational practices always benefit the entire team.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Set regular meeting times. One hour of the class will be devoted to team activities so as to minimize the time you need to meet outside of class. Even so, you should schedule another hour during the week for regular meetings with your design group.
  • Use the provided team e-mail “listserv” to communicate with your team.  It will also archive and thread your e-mails so that you can review past conversations.  Store shared documents on the group page on the website.
  • Work together not separately.  Get to know each other’s strengths, e.g., who knows PowerPoint, who’s is good at drawing, graphics or CAD, who’s good at running meetings, who’s good at eliciting feedback from customers, etc. There are many decisions you must make as a team.
  • Attempt as much open communication as possible.  Discuss the means by which you wish to resolve problems as a group, and what escalation process you will use if problems persist.  Decide, for example, when you want to involve the faculty or your design coaches in helping you resolve problems.
  • Use your mission statement to create a shared vision among the team members that will allow you to stay focused and on target.
  • Have fun!


Class Outline and Assignment Schedule


1 1/23 Introduction to New Product Development (NPD)

Course Introduction. Show Anita Borg video from CBS 60 Minutes broadcast. Students discuss girls/women serving community ideas. How to use Blackboard course website.

BB Reading: “Video Game Designs by Girls and Boys: Variability and Consistency of Gender Differences”

Individual Assignment: Follow up on ideas discussed during class today. Write up one of the possible communities identified in class today or find another local organization that serves women in the community. Submit (to the digital “drop box” on Blackboard under “Tools” link) a brief description, along with the web page/contact information. Due Wednesday, 1/29.  Be prepared to present this idea in class on Jan. 30 or Feb. 6.

2 1/30 Project Proposals and Team Assignments

3:10-4:00 pm Guest Speaker: Yasmin B. Kafai, Associate Professor of Education and Information Studies, UCLA

4-5:00 pm Lecture by Nitin Sawhney on “Cooperative Innovation in the Commons”, 506 Soda Hall, HP Auditorium

BB Reading: Introduction chapter of Sawhney’s thesis and Lewis & Rieman’s “Foreword” to Task-Centered User Interface Design.

3 2/6 Teamwork

BB Reading: “The Discipline of Teams”, by Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith and Lewis & Rieman’s Task-Centered User Interface Design, Chapter 1 on “Task-Centered Design Process”

Individual Assignment: (1) Submit MBTI Personality Test Results. (2) Choose 5 products that continually annoy you because they seem to work better for men than women or just don’t work for you, period. Why do you think your needs were not met? Do you think the develpers deliberately ignored these needs?  Briefly describe your list and answer these questions. Pick one of these unmet female-centric needs to present as a possible design theme in class. Submit this as a one-page proposal. Submit to the “class folder” on the BB course website and prepare a 1-2 minute presentation to class.

4 2/13

Human-Centered User Interfaces

BB Reading: Task-Centered User Interface Design, Chapter 2 on “Getting to Know Users and Their Tasks” and Justine Cassell’s “Genderizing HCI”

Individual Assignment: Go out and find something to observe. Watch it, taking notes for at least 1/2 hour (past students have watched a lawn, a protester, and a coffee shop server). Write up your observations as a task analysis.

5 2/20 Industrial Design and Customer and User Needs Assessment

BB Reading: Dorothy Leonard Jeffrey F. Rayport, “Spark Innovation through Empathic Design”

Individual Assignment: Choose a product that is targeted towards your group community, and interview someone representative of the community about what they like and dislike about the product.  This interview can be done very informally in 5-10 minutes.  Record what your interviewee says and interpret the data in terms of customer needs.  Prepare a one-page summary of what you have learned about the interview process.

Guest Speaker: Carol Koffel, Ginko Design

Sat. 2/22 Innovation Workshop, UC Berkeley (Required)


6 2/27

Translating the Voice of the Customer and Contextual Inquiry

Handout: Chapter 3 of Contextual Design

BB Reading: Patricia Seybold, “Get Inside the Lives of Your Customers”

7 3/6 Concept Generation

BB Reading:  Agogino’s notes on “Concept Generation” and Dym & Little’s “Morphological Matrices”

Project Deliverable Due: Mission Statement and Customer/User Needs Assessment Plan

8 3/13 Concept Selection and Methods of Evaluation

BB Reading: Agogino’s notes and and Chapter 4 of Lewis & Rieman “Evaluating the Design without Users”

Individual Assignment: Concept selection and evaluation exercise

Project Deliverable Due: Conceptual Designs

9 3/20 Peer Review and Simulated User Study

Peer review, simulated user study and preliminary presentation of designs.

BB Reading: BusinessWeek Online “Winners 2002: The best product designs of the year”

Project Deliverable Due:  Concept Selection Presentation


Spring Recess

10 4/3-4 Institute of Women and Technology Conference, Palo Alto

Drive to Palo Alto

11 4/10 Building Prototypes

BB Reading: “A Review of Rapid Prototyping Technologies and Systems” and “Prototyping for Tiny Fingers”.  Also view examples in the Phidgets website.

Tour of Etcheverry Prototyping Labs & Phidgets

12 4/17

Green Design

BB Reading: “Influencing Design to Improve Product End-of-Life Stage” and “Less is More at Interface”

Individual Assignment: Green design homework.

13 4/24

Usability & Accessible Design

BB Reading: “The Center for Universal Design: Environments and Products for all People”

Project Deliverable Due: Low Fidelity Prototypes

14 5/1


BB Reading: Chapter 5 of Lewis & Rieman “Testing the Design with Users”

Guest Speaker: Marcia Linn, “Learning Environments and How They Can Neutralize Gender Impacts in Precollege Science”

15 5/8

Project Presentations & Lessons Learned

Project Deliverable Due:  Lessons Learned (individual), Journals (individual), and Final Design Documentation (group)