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Developing Model for Cross-cultural Service Learning in Developing Countries

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Global Engineering Education: Cross-cultural Awareness and Social Impacts

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Page Count


Page Numbers

25.434.1 - 25.434.13



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Paper Authors


Kurt M. DeGoede Elizabethtown College

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Kurt DeGoede Associate Professor of engineering and physics, Elizabethtown College. DeGoede is currently working on developing a collaborative study abroad program in West Africa built around a design course based in service engineering. Many of these projects include work with renewable energy systems. His research interests are in the areas of biomechanics and the modeling of dynamic systems. Current projects include collaborative work with faculty and students in occupational therapy and an orthopedic hand surgeon, developing clinical instruments for conducting therapy and assessing human movement in patients undergoing rehabilitation.

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Jennifer Kadlowec Rowan University

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Momodou Jain

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Kurt DeGoedeDepartment of Physics and Engineering, Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PAMomodou JainDepartment of Physics, University of The Gambia, The Gambia, West AfricaJennifer KadlowecDepartment of Mechanical Engineering, Rowan University, Glassboro, NJPossible Sessions:Capacity building in engineering in developing countriesAssessing the Impacts of International Service LearningEngineering education in developing countriesEngineering education in sub-Saharan AfricaU.S./Africa Engineering Education PartnershipsInternational Collaborations, Experiences, Partnerships, Service LearningABSTRACT:In far too many cases humanitarian service projects have resulted in little productive change, because ofa short sighted vision not integrated with the community. Sometimes the problem is just a failure tounderstand the real problem that needs to be addressed, without real communication with the localpopulation or customer. Otherwise, systems are designed from a western framework utilizingtechnologies that are not appropriate for the local environment. Working side by side with the facultyand students in The Gambia will help us to avoid this trap. Designed systems are more likely to fit withinthe limitations of the local environment, when members of the design team are from the local society.Moving too quickly into product development without understanding the local cultural and social andeconomic constraints, we are often solving the wrong problem. While our solutions may be terrificsolutions to the problem we defined, they end up rusting in the corner of a West African compoundbecause it was the right answer to the wrong question. In this context low cost is a key design criteria –the system should be practical for deployment in other villages without substantial fund raisingdemands. This moves us toward the economic sustainability. Typical engineering service projects(particularly in the developing world) only involve token local input or, better, local opinions are askedbut analysis and decisions are made by outsiders. By partnering with Gambian Students and Faculty, wecan work such that local people and outsiders share knowledge and work together to solve problemsmoving toward a point where communities set their own agenda and solve problems without outsideinitiators or facilitators. We have initiated a collaborative program featuring collaborative designprojects between UTG University of The Gambia, West Africa) and US institutions. The UTG students arenearly all Gambian and members of the local communities we are serving. The best arrangement for USstudents is where the students spend a semester in the culture and work in multicultural teams withlocal students and community members, early in their studies with the collaboration continuing throughand even beyond graduation.

DeGoede, K. M., & Kadlowec, J., & Jain, M. (2012, June), Developing Model for Cross-cultural Service Learning in Developing Countries Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21192

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