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Community Service Attitudes Of Engineering Students Engaged In Service Learning Projects

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Educating Graduates in Engineering for a Flat World

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Page Count


Page Numbers

13.306.1 - 13.306.13



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Paper Authors

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Angela Bielefeldt University of Colorado at Boulder

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Bernard Amadei University of Colorado at Boulder

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Robyn Sandekian University of Colorado at Boulder

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

Community Service Attitudes of Engineering Students Engaged In Service Learning Projects


One of the potential outcomes of incorporating service learning projects into engineering curriculum is that students may develop a greater sense of altruism and in their careers look for opportunities to use their skills to the benefit of society. It is of interest to see if service learning projects conducted in the context of a single semester design course can encourage students to value community service. The Community Service Attitudes Scale (CSAS) survey1 was administered at the end of the semester in fall 2006 to a freshmen introductory Environmental Engineering course (EVEN 1000) and a senior design course in Environmental Engineering that incorporated service learning projects, and in fall 2007 at the end of an Engineering for the Developing World (EDW) course. Twelve students in the 2006 design course worked on a wastewater project for a community in Mexico, and the EDW students worked on a variety of domestic and international projects for developing communities. Some of the students in these courses were also participating in Engineers Without Borders (EWB) as an extracurricular activity. Based on the fall 2006 results, there were significant differences in the responses of the first-year versus senior design course for only 4 of the 61 questions. The fall 2007 EDW students were emailed the survey, and response rates were much lower than in the other two courses. Therefore, few differences due to gender, EWB participation, or other factors were evident. The results from this study are preliminary in nature due to the small number of survey respondents. However, at this time it appears that the curriculum made minimal impacts on community service attitudes. It also appears that differences in the attitudes of the senior/graduate student EWB participants in the EVEN design course on 10 questions (p<0.05; additional 4 questions with 0.1>p>0.05) were probably due to differences in what leads students to voluntarily participate in EWB as opposed to attitude changes due to the EWB experience itself.


Civil and environmental engineering (CVEN and EVEN) have a strong tradition of serving the public. It has been speculated that this “people serving” and humanitarian aspect of the professions may help attract a higher percentage of women and minorities than other engineering fields that are perceived as more associated with machines and technology than people. Some confirmation of this idea was the finding that the inclination to volunteer among first year college students was higher for females than males, and higher for minorities than whites.2 However, traditional engineering curricula do not tend to emphasize the service-aspects of the profession, leading to non-retention of students who are motivated by these goals.

At the University of Colorado at Boulder, two programs are particularly interested in highlighting service opportunities in engineering. In the EVEN B.S. degree program, one of the educational objectives is to produce students who, within 3 to 5 years after graduation, “have served the needs of our society and protected the future of our planet in an ethical manner.” In addition, one of the program outcomes is that our graduates have “adequate opportunity to

Bielefeldt, A., & Amadei, B., & Sandekian, R. (2008, June), Community Service Attitudes Of Engineering Students Engaged In Service Learning Projects Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4319

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