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Board 97 : Sustainable Development Goals Meet “Third Mission”: The Engineers Without Borders Challenge in Germany

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

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Paper Authors


Freya Willicks RWTH Aachen University

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Freya Willicks is researcher at the Center for Learning and Knowledge Management (ZLW) in the Cybernetic Labs IMA/ZLW & IfU at RWTH Aachen University, Germany (e-mail:

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Valerie Varney IMA/ZLW of RWTH Aachen University Orcid 16x16

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Valerie Stehling is a research group leader at the Institute of Information Management in Mechanical Engineering and Center for Learning and Knowledge Management.

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Max Haberstroh RWTH Aachen University

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The German university teaching system has been in a constant change since the Bologna reform. As digitalization progresses, it is becoming increasingly important to intensify the learning process, improve learning outcomes and ultimately improve the quality of teaching (Hochschulforum Digitalisierung 2016). Furthermore, concepts such as the "Third Mission" are on the rise: The idea of understanding civil society engagement as a further mission of universities alongside research and teaching are increasingly being discussed and disseminated in Germany (Schneidewind 2016).

In addition to that, key challenges of the 21st century are coming to the focus, such as globalization, climate change, lack of sustainability and social inequality (Belu et al. 2016; Boyle 2004). Their significance is also reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were designed by the UN as part of the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 and became effective in 2016 (Welthungerhilfe 2016). However, it is not only important to focus on the themes of the sustainability agenda when communicating such topics in engineering education. Since this is a multidisciplinary challenge, students must also be prepared to find problem-oriented solutions and work in interdisciplinary teams (Multrus 2009).

In order to sensitize students to the concept of civil engagement on the one hand and to train them for interdisciplinary cooperation on the other, there is a need for complex and innovative approaches. One to address these challenges is the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Challenge (Buys et al. 2013). Within this EWB Challenge, real-life problems of development cooperation are integrated into lectures and it is the students’ task to find feasible solutions.

So far, the concept of the EWB Challenge has only been implemented at one German university (Willicks et al. 2017). Therefore, it is currently being expanded and transferred to other universities. In the course of this process, a two-part evaluation (pre- and post-evaluation) has been developed to analyze and compare the participants' assessments of their skills and abilities before and after their participation in the EWB Challenge. The paper presents the current state of implementation of the EWB Challenge at different German universities. In addition, results of the newly developed evaluation will be presented and the results as well as the method of the evaluation will be discussed.

Willicks, F., & Varney, V., & Haberstroh, M. (2018, June), Board 97 : Sustainable Development Goals Meet “Third Mission”: The Engineers Without Borders Challenge in Germany Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30147

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