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Brazilian Grassroots Engineer’s Education: Achievements, Flaws, and Challenges

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Community Engagement Division Technical Session 6

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Community Engagement Division

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Cristiano Cordeiro Cruz Aeronautics Technological Institute Orcid 16x16

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I currently develop a post-doctorate research at the Aeronautics Technological Institute (ITA) with a scholarship from FAPESP (#2018/20563-3). I hold a PhD degree in Philosophy (University of São Paulo, 2017), a bachelor degree in Philosophy (Jesuit Faculty of Philosophy and Theology, 2008), a master degree in Electrical Engineering (University of Campinas, 2002), and a bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering (University of Campinas, 1999). My research area encompasses philosophy of technology and of engineering and engineering education. I am now studying grassroots engineering (GE) and social/solidarity technology (ST), as well as engineering education, focusing, on one hand, on the ethical-political, aesthetics, and epistemic aspects that both characterize and make GE and ST possible, and, on the other hand, on the challenges the engineering education must face in order to train/develop the capabilities or skills engineers must possess so to be able of doing GE and producing ST. The work I currently develop at ITA is related to the conception and institutionalization of a minor in engaged engineering.

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As briefly presented elsewhere (my other paper submitted to CED), in the early 2000’s a particular form of engineering practice emerged in Brazil. It is called grassroots engineering (GE) and conjugates the social technology and solidary economy different but complimentary movements. Currently, there are two main branches in GE, namely “popular education” and “activity ergonomics”, which are mostly undertaken, as community engagement activities, in (and by) structured and institutionalized permanent university groups of students and teachers.

GE is one of the latest university offspring of Paulo Freire’s pedagogy of the opressed. It is precisely from Freire’s ideas that GE takes not only part of its own name (grassroots or popular), but also the fundamentals of its very working. Based on that, back in 2008, three engineers coined a concept that became the identification of a professional profile capable of GE: grassroots engineer. Profile that, in addition to the regular technical skills and knowledge usually developed/learned in the engineering courses, also encompasses capacity of: empathy and commitment, dialoguing, critical sense, and openness to learn from local (or grassroots/traditional) knowledge. And profile for whose achievement there have been developed different pedagogic approaches and activities in many Brazilian universities.

In this manuscript, after presenting a brief account on grassroots engineering’s historic and two main branches, I will: 1) analyze the four non-technical grassroots engineer skills, making explicit its Freirian roots; 2) present the three main engineering education approaches (and corresponding activities) aimed at the development of (part of) grassroots engineer’s skills; and 3) highlight strengths and weaknesses of each one of them as well as challenges they (still) have to face so to deliver the result they want to.

For doing so, I will manly draw on academic papers, some institutional documents, and my personal perception as a member of the GE network.

Cruz, C. C. (2020, June), Brazilian Grassroots Engineer’s Education: Achievements, Flaws, and Challenges Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34223

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