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Bringing Sustainable Development Challenges into the Engineering Classroom: Applying Human Centered Design Protocols to Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining

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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

Holistic Assessment and Teaching in Service-learning Environments

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors


Nicole M. Smith Colorado School of Mines

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Dr. Smith is an Assistant Professor in the Mining Engineering Department at the Colorado School of Mines. She is a cultural anthropologist with research and teaching interests in livelihoods and extractive industries, artisanal and small-scale mining, engineering education, and sustainable development and mineral resources.

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Benjamin A Teschner Colorado School of Mines

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Robin Bullock Colorado School of Mines

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In the United States, the growth of programs in the past decade such as Humanitarian Engineering and Engineers Without Borders reflects student interest in understanding the challenges facing communities in the developing world and applying engineering design principles to address these challenges. These programs also provide students with unique opportunities to engage with stakeholders, a critical element of any sustainable development initiative. Although there is no substitute for taking students to the field, there are not always the resources to do so, and thus, engineering educators must find creative ways to expose students to the ways in which they can support sustainable development goals and engage with stakeholders. This paper reports on two activities focused on incorporating sustainable development projects into engineering design courses. Both approaches were part of larger projects aimed at reducing or eliminating the use of mercury in mineral processing systems used by artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) communities in Latin America. In the courses discussed in this paper, interdisciplinary groups of undergraduate engineering students were assigned design challenges that focused on developing context specific, mercury-free, mineral processing technologies for ASM communities. The students were required to employ a Human-Centered Design (HCD) protocol, with a significant stakeholder engagement component. Through an analysis of student feedback, this paper identifies two major themes. First, integrating sustainable development projects into the engineering design classroom provides students with deeper insights regarding the challenges of sustainable development projects. Second, students are able to make a clearer connection between the social and technical aspects of engineering and sustainable development problems. This paper concludes that introducing sustainable development projects into the engineering classroom that have real-world applications and allow students to engage in stakeholder engagement activities provides students with knowledge and skills that will benefit them in their future careers as engineering professionals.

Smith, N. M., & Teschner, B. A., & Bullock, R. (2018, June), Bringing Sustainable Development Challenges into the Engineering Classroom: Applying Human Centered Design Protocols to Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30159

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