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Community Based Learning: Creating International Sustainable Development Engineers

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

International Distance & Service Learning for Engineers- Discussion on Best Practices

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Page Count


Page Numbers

12.375.1 - 12.375.8



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Paper Authors

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Kurt Paterson Michigan Technological University Orcid 16x16

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James Mihelcic Michigan Technological University

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David Watkins Michigan Technological University

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Brian Barkdoll Michigan Technological University

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Linda Phillips Michigan Technological University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Community-Based Learning: Creating International Sustainable Development Engineers

1. Introduction There has been increased recognition that the world faces serious challenges in terms of long-term economic growth, societal prosperity, and environmental protection. In particular, health problems resulting from environmental risks and a lack of economic resources in the developing world pose daunting challenges to the global scientific and engineering communities. Addressing these challenges through international research experiences integrated with sustainability and appropriate technology principles represents a significant and critical contribution to a more sustainable future. This has been called for both within and outside engineering education, starting at the undergraduate level.

Initiated in Fall 2006 with the help of a NSF grant, this program engages engineering student teams in community-based learning (CBL) outside La Paz, Bolivia. CBL is defined as learning via working with and in a community in need of engineering (or other) services. In this way, the student’s research efforts in this program will be socially relevant and useful at the community level, and will foster knowledge transfer from the developing world to the industrialized world. It will also increase students’ understanding of appropriate technology, engineering equality, and social justice. This paper will present the program design, student participation, and lessons learned to date.

2. Program Design The four main goals of this CBL experience are: (1) to provide engineering students experience working on diverse teams, (2) to produce engineers with a better sense of the societal and global interconnections of engineering works, (3) to enhance the real-world problem-solving and research capabilities of students, and (4) to work with developing communities on appropriate sustainable solutions to environmental problems.

Three student teams, each composed of two American engineering students (one undergraduate, and one mentoring Ph.D. student) and two Bolivian engineering students, partner with a Bolivian NGO and Bolivian community members to assess, plan, design, execute, re-assess, and communicate research related to a sustainable development project for the community. The American undergraduate engineering students are selected from a recently started Certificate in International Sustainable Development Engineering program, the doctoral students from a Graduate Certificate in Sustainability program. The Bolivian students will come from the engineering program at Universidad Tecnològica Boliviana in La Paz.

The program commenced with a campus-wide solicitation of participation. While this program is designed to draw students from two existing sustainable development programs, the undergraduate program was only recently approved by the University;

Paterson, K., & Mihelcic, J., & Watkins, D., & Barkdoll, B., & Phillips, L. (2007, June), Community Based Learning: Creating International Sustainable Development Engineers Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2051

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