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Comparison of Two Project-Based Learning Experiences in Panama City, Panama

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2016 ASEE International Forum


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 25, 2016

Start Date

June 25, 2016

End Date

June 25, 2016

Conference Session

Concurrent Paper Tracks Session I Study Abroad Programs

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International Forum

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Aaron Richard Sakulich Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Aaron Sakulich is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. His research interests include the development of sustainable cementitious materials for infrastructure applications and international project-based learning. The recipient of a 2007 Fulbright award to Morocco, he is now the co-director of an off-campus project site in Panama City, Panama.

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In 1970, Worcester Polytechnic Institute adopted The WPI Plan, a project-based educational philosophy that requires students to complete three research projects during their undergraduate careers, each the equivalent of a full term’s worth of work. Almost immediately, this curriculum evolved to incorporate off-campus project opportunities, with the first off-campus Project Center established in 1974. This paper compares two groups of undergraduates that recently carried out NSF-funded research at the Panama City, Panama, Project Center in order to fulfill one of their project requirements. The first group was composed of five seniors, selected based on academic standing, each working under the guidance of personnel from the Panama Canal Authority on a specific technical project as part of their capstone design project. The second group, selected based on financial need, investigated the effects of the ongoing Panama Canal Expansion Project on the Food-Energy-Water (FEW) nexus in the canal watershed to fulfill their junior year ‘Interactive Qualifying Project’ requirement. The findings of each team, logistical considerations for advisors, the results of student evaluations of the experience, and unique difficulties faced by the students are discussed, as well as lessons learned for the improvement of the program in future years. These projects represent two distinctly unique examples of project-based learning.

Sakulich, A. R. (2016, June), Comparison of Two Project-Based Learning Experiences in Panama City, Panama Paper presented at 2016 ASEE International Forum, New Orleans, Louisiana.

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