Sociotechnical System Design and Education to Support Ephemeral Teams

On July 3, faculty and administration from the Grainger College of Engineering decided to work in collaboration with the SHIELD: target, test, tell team and  Discovery Partner’s Institute to develop a proposal to build a mobile version of the SHIELD lab (possibly operationalized as a fleet of mobile labs) to support the land-grant mission. This represents a unique, interdisciplinary and fluid team that was formed quickly and under pressure to respond to pressing societal concerns through translational and applied research. Our overarching goal is to support the design teams involved in responses to future global and national challenges, by addressing two objectives: (1) develop guidelines to support the development and deployment of interdisciplinary design teams to rapidly address emergent societal concerns; and (2) improve the education of engineering and medical students with an organizational design perspective to facilitate effective collaborative design. To do this, we must first understand what makes for effective collaboration between engineers and clinical personnel. We will study an interdisciplinary design team, composed of engineers, clinicians and business management executives, developing a mobile laboratory to conduct COVID-19 testing. We will use the collaborative inquiry paradigm as a theoretical framework for evaluating the social processes of co-inquiry in this specific context of how interdisciplinary (engineering and clinical) teams collaborative design innovative technologies such as mobileSHIELD. This paradigm will be paired with a sociotechnical approach to teams that consider team membership, tools and technology to support members and environmental and organizational considerations. From this research, we will generate foundational understanding to develop new models and tools to prepare engineers and clinicians for successful collaboration.