June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.126.1 - 15.126.21
Addressing Third World Poverty in First-Year Engineering Capstone Projects: Initial Findings
The ABET Criteria for engineering programs require that students attain specific learning outcomes, including understanding engineering in both a global and social context, and designing within multiple realistic constraints. To address this goal, the College of Engineering at Ohio Northern University has implemented a First-Year Engineering Capstone course featuring a requirement that all projects must involve the design of a poverty alleviation device. Such a device must be geared toward improving lives in a country where at least 40% of the population meet the World Bank's definition of living in either extreme or moderate poverty, earning less than $2 a day. The projects require the student team to follow and document an engineering design process, including regular written reports, oral presentations, and the development of a functional prototype providing proof of concept. Teams were also required to design and present a poster as part of an entrepreneurial “idea pitch” competition. This paper will present the initial evaluation as to the effectiveness of the use of poverty alleviation as a design theme plus recommendations for the improvement of the process.
Engineers can make a difference in the lives of others – not just one person at a time, but in the hundreds, thousands, or even millions through the thoughtful development of just a single well- designed project. As engineering educators, one of our roles is to raise awareness of both issues and opportunities. All too often, students arrive at college with visions of designing that which is at the forefront of technology: a faster car, a longer bridge, or a next generation iPod. But what about the over two billion people in the world’s population who live on less than $2 a day? Visionaries such as Dr. Paul Polak, author of Out of Poverty 1 and a Distinguished Lecturer at the 2008 ASEE Annual Conference, do not see this group as “poor people” but as potential entrepreneurs and customers. Through his work in various Third World countries, Polak has successfully demonstrated that products designed to applicable constraints and combined with local empowerment can have an impact in markedly improving the lives of the less fortunate. Consequently, Polak’s ASEE presentation inspired instructors of the first-year engineering courses at Ohio Northern University to undertake, what was to some, a radical redesign of their curriculum: the incorporation of a capstone project focusing on poverty alleviating designs for a Third World country.
First-Year Engineering Curriculum
The first-year engineering curriculum at Ohio Northern University is a year-long (three quarter) sequence. The intent of the sequence is to both introduce students to interdisciplinary topics of importance in engineering and to integrate the students into communities of their peers. The focus of the first course is on teamwork, technical communication, the consideration of engineering criteria and constraints, and an introduction to a formal engineering design process. Technical communication topics include preparation of common engineering documents, such as memoranda and cover letters, and an oral presentation entitled the “One Minute Engineer” 2,
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