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Creating International Experiences for First-Year Engineers Through the EWB Australia Challenge Project

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

International Division Technical Session 7

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Paper Authors


Thomas J. Siller Colorado State University Orcid 16x16

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Tom Siller is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University. He has been a faculty member at CSU for 28 years.

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Alistair Cook Colorado State University

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PhD Student in Education Sciences focusing on Engineering for Global Development as a context to teach engineering professional skills to undergraduate engineering students

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Gearold R. Johnson Colorado State University

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Gerry Johnson is a Senior Research Scholar, Emeritus George T. Abell Chair in Engineering and Professor Emeritus at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. He taught in Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science. He has extensive international experience having lived and worked four years abroad and taught for Semester at Sea on three voyages.

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During the fall semester of 2014 and 2015, the College of Engineering at Colorado State University (CSU) partnered with non-government organization Engineers Without Borders USA and their sister organization, Engineers Without Borders Australia to pilot the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Challenge program in the United States and to demonstrate the programs academic validity and appropriateness for US curriculum. The EWB Challenge program was founded by EWB-Australia in 2007 and today the EWB Challenge is a mature program imbedded into curriculum at 52 universities in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, Malaysia and Dubai, reaching over 10,000 first year engineering students each year. At CSU, the EWB Challenge was utilized as part of a first year course with ninety (2014) and one hundred and forty (2015) engineering students who had yet to declare an engineering discipline major. The program was seen as appropriate for CSU as it would provide an opportunity to look at the philosophy of problem definition, the impacts of culture and context and cross-disciplinary collaboration including working with all project stakeholders with the student participants. Feedback and reflection on the program was gained through surveys and focus groups with the participating students, both by a team of volunteers from EWB and research staff and students from CSU Colleges of Engineering and Education.

The feedback from the students about the EWB program was mainly positive, with over sixty percent of students now interested in pursuing international opportunities in engineering, students also felt overwhelmingly that the EWB Challenge positively affected their understanding of the role of an engineer within society and globally. Students were also assessed on their own understandings and increase or decrease in understanding of the chosen learning outcomes. Amongst other important comprehensions students gained a greater understanding around the roles of engineers globally and societally, and the importance of defining the problem and how culture affects decisions. There was, from qualitative feedback, a lack of understanding of how stakeholders are defined, which was demonstrated in the lower levels of comprehension amongst the students in these areas. Students were also asked for their feedback on their self-assessed improvement to professional skills, such as understanding the design process and working in teams and had the EWB Challenge program facilitated this improvement. The students felt, with a few exceptions, that the EWB Challenge had acted as a good introduction to engineering and professional skills and had in general helped them improve their skills in these key areas. Finally, during the first semester, two thirds of the students taking this course have changed their engineering field preference, with just under sixty percent of the total students stating that the EWB Challenge experience influenced their current preference.

Siller, T. J., & Cook, A., & Johnson, G. R. (2016, June), Creating International Experiences for First-Year Engineers Through the EWB Australia Challenge Project Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26603

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