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Case Study Incorporating Service-learning in a Statics and Dynamics Course: The Wheelchair Ramp Design/Build

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Community Engagement in Engineering Education: Program Models

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.288.1 - 25.288.10



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Paper Authors


Jennifer Light Lewis-Clark College

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Jennifer Light is an Associate Professor at Lewis-Clark State College where she teaches foundational engineering classes. She obtained her Ph.D. from Washington State University in interdisciplinary engineering and M.S. and B.S. degrees in environmental engineering from Idaho State University and Montana Tech, respectively. Light has extensive industry experience in the environmental engineering field with air and water quality. Research interests include improving the first-year experience, service learning, and retention in engineering, in addition to water and stormwater quality improvement.

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Case Study Incorporating Service Learning in a Statics/Dynamics Sequence Course – Making it Work with What You’ve GotThis paper is a case study describing how one service learning project was incorporated andimproved through a two-sequence course, Engineering Statics and Dynamics, in a small schoolwith limited resources and less than 15 students in each class.Developing meaningful and interesting service-learning projects that can be completed within alimited time-frame, by students with limited engineering skills is a challenging feat. Add intothe mix a small, rural college with limited budgets and staff, and the challenge becomes evengreater. This problem isn’t unique; schools across the nation are struggling with reduced budgets,yet still striving to make learning innovative, meaningful, and effective. Service-learning hasbecome one of the ways to make this happen.In this project students take what they are learning in statics and dynamics and apply conceptsand key lessons putting them into practical use building a wheelchair ramp for handicapped orelderly individuals. Partnering with a local community agency that provides the materials and aretired professional drafter/designer volunteer with extensive experience designing and buildingthese ramps, the cost to the school is minimal. Students experience what it is like to actuallydesign something and then build it. Additionally, students are exposed to the realities ofengineering – constraints, limited budget, changing plans, sequencing construction, and lousyweather among other things. Wheelchair ramps are ideal because they do not require a buildingpermit and they can be built in one day.How students designed, analyzed forces, and then built the ramps is described in the paper inaddition to changes and improvements over the past five years. In the assessment section,student reactions and experiences with the project are described in the context of learningoutcomes and project improvements in the paper.As we continue to improve learning while making do with fewer resources, incorporatingService Learning into the curriculum becomes ideal as we are able to leverage availablecommunity resources in a directly applicable way for our students. It is hoped that this casestudy provides one straightforward, low cost example of how to make a difference in yourcommunity while improving student learning and could serve as a model for how others, in asimilar situation, can make it work too.

Light, J. (2012, June), Case Study Incorporating Service-learning in a Statics and Dynamics Course: The Wheelchair Ramp Design/Build Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21046

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