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Creating Socially Aware Engineers through International Service Learning

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Socio-cultural Dimensions of Community Engagement

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.348.1 - 23.348.12



Permanent URL

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Paper Authors


Sandra Loree Dika University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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Dr. Sandra Dika is an assistant professor of Research Methods in the Department of Educational Leadership at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research interests are focused on student engagement and success in college, particularly among underrepresented students in STEM fields. She collaborates frequently with engineering educators on research projects and evaluations of programs and curricula.

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Brett Tempest University of North Carolina, Charlotte


Miguel A. Pando University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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Dr. Miguel Pando is an associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Department of UNC Charlotte.

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Creating Socially Aware Engineers through International Service Learning A great deal of research and policy attention in the last decade has emphasized the needto reform engineering education to produce engineering professionals that can respond tochanging societal needs (e.g., ASCE, 2007; 2008; Duderstadt, 2008; NAE, 2005; NSF, 2007;Rugarcia et al., 2007). In engineering programs, outcome “h” of the Accreditation Board forEngineering and Technology’s (ABET) EC2000 criteria specifies that engineers must have abroad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in an environmentaland societal context (ABET, 2004). The traditional engineering curriculum offers fewopportunities to truly integrate societal and cultural contexts into the design of engineeringsolutions, let alone international contexts. In conjunction with an Engineers without Borders student chapter, the authors of thispaper led a study abroad program with a significant service learning component in a remotemountain village in Peru in Summer 2012. Student participants included 10 civil engineeringstudents (9 undergraduate and 1 graduate) at a large urban research institution in the southeastUnited States. We designed pre- and post-trip questionnaires, focus group interviews, andwritten reflection activities to assess students’ perceptions, attitudes, and learning as a result ofthe experience. This paper will address three research questions: 1) What is the profile of engineering students who choose to participate in a study abroad/ service learning experience, in terms of attitudes toward engineering, social engagement, volunteering experience, motivation for enrolling in study abroad, and future career/study plans? 2) How do engineering student participants understand the role of engineering in society and the incorporation of community and societal needs in the design of engineering solutions, before and after the study abroad/service learning experience? 3) Are there differences in attitudes toward engineering and perceived learning opportunities (related to ABET a-k outcomes) before and after the study abroad/service learning experience?Our data analysis approach, in process, includes descriptive and inferential statistics as well asthematic analysis of focus group and written reflection responses. Due to the size of the sampleand the duration of the experience (1 month), we do not anticipate statistically significantchanges in attitudes and perceived learning opportunities (research question 3). However,students’ narrative responses in the open-ended questions, focus group, and journal reflectiondata bear out their perceptions of the value of this type of experience to understand how to workwith communities to generate engineering solutions based on community needs, and theimportance of understanding cultural contexts in addition to technological expertise.

Dika, S. L., & Tempest, B., & Pando, M. A. (2013, June), Creating Socially Aware Engineers through International Service Learning Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19362

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