Living labs: dealing with uncertainty in solving complex problems

Caroline Wehrmann, Maartje van den Bogaard

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In engineering education students are increasingly challenged to solve complex socio-technological problems. However, there are many uncertainties in solving those 'ill-defined wicked problems'. For students, dealing with uncertainty is not easy to master. In the minor and master programmes of Science Education and Communication at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, living Labs ('C-labs') are used to teach students to deal with real-life complex communication problems in technological innovation processes. Students collaborate in teams of four persons, all from different technological disciplines. Each team works closely with professionals who face the problem in practice. In the C-labs, design methodology is used to approach the problems in a structured way. In this study we raise the question: how do students deal with uncertainties in solving complex problems in the C-labs? To answer this question we identified 3 sources of uncertainty: attributed to the individual, to the social context and to the task [7] and monitored the students during the design process by means of surveys and interviews. Data analysis shows that students perceive all 3 kinds of uncertainty in the various stages of the design process. They use of a broad variety of responses to tackle uncertainty. The outcomes can be used to improve our ways to help students to deal with uncertainties.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSEFI 47th Annual Conference
Subtitle of host publicationVarietas Delectat... Complexity is the New Normality, Proceedings
EditorsBalazs Vince Nagy, Mike Murphy, Hannu-Matti Jarvinen, Aniko Kalman
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9782873520182
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventSEFI 2019: 47th SEFI Annual Conference in Budapest - Budapest, Hungary
Duration: 16 Sep 201919 Sep 2019
Conference number: 47

Publication series

NameSEFI 47th Annual Conference: Varietas Delectat... Complexity is the New Normality, Proceedings


ConferenceSEFI 2019: 47th SEFI Annual Conference in Budapest
Abbreviated titleSEFI 2019
Internet address


  • Complex problems
  • Design methodology
  • Living labs
  • Uncertainty

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