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Deepening Engineering Skills through Community Engaged Learning in a Sustainable Energy Systems Course

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Community Engagement Division Technical Session 4

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Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors


Maija A Benitz Roger Williams University

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Dr. Maija Benitz is an Assistant Professor of Engineering at Roger Williams University. She has a bachelors in Physics from Colorado College, and received her Masters and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from UMass Amherst. Her research focuses on wind energy, ocean engineering, and engineering education.

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Li-Ling Yang Roger Williams University

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Dr. Yang has extensive experience working with both pre-service and in-service teachers in science and engineering education courses and professional development workshops. She has authored conference and journal articles about elementary science curriculum, professional development for teachers, application of visual data in science classrooms, conceptual change, and engineering education. Additionally, she has conducted several grant projects to enhance science and engineering education in K-8 schools.

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A community engaged learning experience, bridging courses in engineering and education, was established to support the needs of our local school district. The recent adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards in Rhode Island introduced the requirement to include engineering content in the public elementary schools. The school district identified the fourth grade for the pilot year program. Wind energy was selected as a topic area for introducing the engineering design process due to our engineering students’ growing expertise in that area as well as its relevance to Rhode Island. Interdisciplinary teams of engineering and education majors collaborated to develop and teach five lessons across eleven fourth grade classrooms, reaching more than 230 fourth grade students. The project culminated with a day-long celebration on our university’s campus in which fourth graders tested their model-scale wind turbines in a wind tunnel and completed various engineering design activities. This work focuses on the outcomes of the engineering students (primarily juniors and seniors specializing in mechanical and/or electrical engineering). In particular, the efficacy of this community engagement project as a pedagogical tool for meeting ABET outcomes is examined through survey results and team reflection papers. The impacts on the education majors, fourth grade students/teachers, and university faculty are outside the scope of this paper, though these outcomes are equally important and will be assessed in another study. Qualitative and quantitative results demonstrate overall success of this project upon completion of its pilot year and provide insights for future improvements to the program. Engineering students reported growth in communication, teamwork, and time management, among other skills. The continuation of this community engagement project will provide opportunities for improvement, particularly in the methodology and frequency of student reflection.

Benitz, M. A., & Yang, L. (2020, June), Deepening Engineering Skills through Community Engaged Learning in a Sustainable Energy Systems Course Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34372

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