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Addressing Third World Poverty In First Year Engineering Capstone Projects: Initial Findings

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Service Learning and Societal Issues in the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.126.1 - 15.126.21



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Paper Authors


John K. Estell Ohio Northern University

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John K. Estell is Chair of the Electrical & Computer Engineering and Computer Science
Department, and Professor of Computer Engineering and Computer Science, at Ohio Northern
University. He received his doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His
areas of research include simplifying the outcomes assessment process, first-year engineering
instruction, and the pedagogical aspects of writing computer games. Dr. Estell is a Senior
Member of IEEE, and a member of ACM, ASEE, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, and Upsilon Pi

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Kenneth Reid Ohio Northern University

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Ken Reid is the Director of Freshman Engineering and an Associate Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science at Ohio Northern University. He was the seventh person in the U.S. to receive a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. He is active in engineering within K-12, serving on the JETS Board of Directors and 10 years on the IEEE-USA Precollege Education Committee. He co-developed “The Tsunami Model Eliciting Activity” which was awarded Best Middle School Curriculum by the Engineering Education Service Center in 2009. His research interests include success in first-year engineering and engineering in K-12.

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Jed Marquart Ohio Northern University

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Jed E. Marquart is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Interim Department Chair at Ohio Northern University. He received his BSME from Ohio Northern University and his MS and PhD in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Dayton. His areas of research include numerical simulation of steady and unsteady flows, aircraft and engine design, and finite element analysis. He teaches courses in the areas of the thermal sciences, FEA, CFD, and freshman engineering. Dr. Marquart is a licensed professional engineer, an Associate Fellow of AIAA, and a member of ASEE and Tau Beta Pi.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

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,

Estell, J. K., & Reid, K., & Marquart, J. (2010, June), Addressing Third World Poverty In First Year Engineering Capstone Projects: Initial Findings Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15763

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