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Building Effective Community Resilience through Active Participation

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Engaging Community through STEM partnerships

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Nathalia Ospina-Uribe University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus Orcid 16x16

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Nathalia Ospina Uribe was born in Armenia, Colombia and completed her B.S. degree in Architecture with emphasis in Urban Design from the University of La Gran Colombia (UGC) in (2013). She worked for over three years in the construction industry as a technical and contract architect at companies such as Bureau Veritas and ECOM Trading. She is currently pursuing her M.E. degree in Civil Engineering and Construction Management at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus (UPRM). Ospina Uribe has diverse interests in the research area of Community Resilience; Appropriate Technology, and Climate Change. During her Master's program she become involved in a pilot project to co-develop workshops aimed at strengthening community resilience through the creation of practical solutions for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene challenges in Puerto Rico through opportunities supported by NSF, Oxfam America and the Response Innovation Lab.

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Pamela Cristina Silva Díaz

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Pamela Cristina Silva Díaz was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and completed her bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012. She obtained her Master of Science in the same field at the University of Michigan in 2014. After working for over two years in the aerospace industry, she joined Oxfam America as a Technician for Public Health during the Hurricane Maria response and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. She later joined the Response Innovation Lab and co-developed workshops aimed at strengthening community resilience through the creation of practical solutions for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene challenges.

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Aidsa I. Santiago-Roman University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus

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Dr. Aidsa I. Santiago-Román is a Professor at the Engineering Sciences and Materials (CIIM) Department at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus (UPRM). Dr. Santiago earned a BA and MS in Industrial Engineering from UPRM and Ph.D in Engineering Education from Purdue University. Dr. Santiago has over 20 years of experience in academia and is currently the Department Head of the CIIM Department. She's also the founder and advisor of the first ASEE student chapter in Puerto Rico. Her primary research interests include investigating students’ understanding of difficult concepts in engineering sciences, especially for underrepresented populations. She also works in the development and evaluation of various engineering curriculum and courses at UPRM applying the outcome-based educational framework.

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Christopher Papadopoulos University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus

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Christopher Papadopoulos is Professor in the Department of Engineering Sciences and Materials at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus (UPRM). He earned B.S. degrees in Civil Engineering and Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University (1993) and a Ph.D. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics at Cornell University (1999). Prior to UPRM, Papadopoulos served on the faculty in the Department of Civil engineering and Mechanics at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Papadopoulos has diverse research and teaching interests in structural mechanics and bioconstruction (with emphasis in bamboo); appropriate technology; engineering ethics; and mechanics education. He has served as PI of several NSF-sponsored research projects and is co-author of Lying by Approximation: The Truth about Finite Element Analysis. He is active in the Mechanics Division.

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The many recent “natural disasters” – perhaps better referred to as “catastrophic events” – in the US and globally raise questions of how to better prepare for, respond to, and recover from such events that are likely to occur more frequently and with greater ferocity as a result of climate change. Although governmental and non-governmental agencies carry special responsibilities to protect the citizenry, because these organizations have limitations, it is clear that individuals and communities need to be prepared to provide for some of their own needs, both immediate and long term. The key question is how best to foster community resilience so that communities are prepared to deal with catastrophic events, both in the immediate sense and as a precursor for sustainable development that will adapt to a changing climate. As residents of a region that recently suffered a catastrophic weather event, the authors (a graduate student, an engineer at a major international development agency (NGO), an undergraduate student leader of a campus engineering society, and two university professors) worked closely with local communities, starting with the distribution emergency aid and transitioning into organized hands-on workshops in which various “simple” or “appropriate” technologies were demonstrated that can serve multiply as emergency means in the immediate days following a crisis, to longer term functionality during the recovery phase when standard services have not been fully restored, and possibly as permanent means for sustainable lifestyles. We argue that resilience is a robust concept that reflects a community’s capacity to adapt to changing conditions in these multiple scales. This project aims to simultaneously inquire about and foster community resilience in our region. Specifically, we pose five questions: 1. To what extent do members of local communities have well-developed concepts of resilience? 2. What can be learned from the community members’ experience, both about their attitudes toward resilience and planning, and the practical means that they developed to address their needs in the wake of catastrophe? 3. What are practical appropriate technologies that can be built and managed within the resources that are typically available in a local community? 4. To what extent will direct participation in designing and building simple technologies lead to their adoption, and ultimately contribute to community resilience? 5. How can these efforts be integrated into the curricular and non-curricular activities of engineering students and faculty? This paper will be a presented as a Work in Progress to report on the activities conducted thus far and to outline future plans. To date, based on needs-assessment conducted by the NGO partner, we have given several “do it yourself workshops” at schools and community centers in remote regions to teach the construction or creation of items such as a foot-pump sink, a non-electric washing machine, wood burning stoves, sand filters, and household cleaning products. At each workshop, participants are also encouraged to share ideas that they developed for themselves. Using grounded theory as the theoretical framework, a questionnaire was designed and distributed to inquire about participants’ experiences and attitudes pre- and post- catastrophe. The researchers will contact the participants periodically or after the occurrence of another interruption of services in order to track usage of various items that were developed in the workshops to measure their efficacy. We will particularly test the hypothesis of whether the participant’s direct involvement in developing an item has an influence in their adoption of it. Although prior research has shown this to be the case in several countries that are commonly labelled as “developing”, it is an open question in our context. Finally, building off of the ways that students and faculty have thus far responded, we explore how to embed this engagement more permanently in curricular and extra-curricular activities.

Ospina-Uribe, N., & Silva Díaz, P. C., & Santiago-Roman, A. I., & Papadopoulos, C. (2019, June), Building Effective Community Resilience through Active Participation Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32485

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