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Cross Cultural Service Learning For Responsible Engineering Graduates

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.152.1 - 4.152.10

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Paper Authors

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John Eby

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David Vader

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Carl A. Erikson

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

Session 1360

Cross-Cultural Service Learning for Responsible Engineering Graduates

David Vader, Carl A. Erikson, John W. Eby Messiah College, Grantham, PA

Engineering programs everywhere are developing mission statements and outcome assessment plans. Messiah College aims to graduate engineers who are “technically competent and broadly educated, prepared for interdisciplinary work in the global workplace.” Moreover, we want to influence our students so that their professional character and conduct are “consistent with Christian faith commitments.” The familiar process of gaining and learning to use new information achieves many of our goals for would-be engineers. But how do we grow beyond merely doing good engineering and learn to do good with our engineering?

The paper first explores the need for responsible engineering. Is technique the principal responsibility of engineers, the material working out of objectives defined and supplied by others? Or are engineers also responsible, in view of our special knowledge, to create and use technologies in ways that preserve, honor and advance prevailing social, political economic values? The paper then examines the educational objectives of Messiah College vis-à-vis the college mission and responsible engineering. It considers the influence of the appropriate technology movement in shaping our purpose and the role of service-learning in shaping our program. The paper concludes with the case study of an international service-learning project of Messiah College Engineering.

I. Responsible Engineering

Persons outside of the profession, and sometimes engineers themselves, do not understand the nature of engineering work very well. Ron Howard’s film about the troubled Apollo 13 moon shot depicts the response of engineers to crises. In one scene, the astronauts’ lives are in jeopardy as carbon dioxide accumulates in a disabled spacecraft. Ground crew engineers working under severe time constraints, and using only those supplies available to the astronauts, must make square filtration canisters work in round receptacles. Confined to an office, someone pours the available material resources onto a table. As time passes, disaster seems to be inevitable, when the engineers emerge victorious. Amazingly, they have crafted a solution from, among other things, duct tape, plastic bags, and pieces of the flight plan document. This is engineering at its unambiguous best. When needs, goals, time constraints, and available resources are unambiguous, engineers can solve problems.

Rarely, however, are the scope and boundary of an engineer's work so well defined. In the United States, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) describes engineering as devising components, systems and processes to meet needs. This is the process of applying mathematics and science “to convert resources optimally to meet a stated

Eby, J., & Vader, D., & Erikson, C. A. (1999, June), Cross Cultural Service Learning For Responsible Engineering Graduates Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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