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Developing Technical Competency And Enhancing The Soft Skills Of Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Students Through Service Learning

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Best Zone Papers

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.418.1 - 9.418.6



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Paper Authors

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Margaret Pinnell

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Leon Chuck

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

Session 1601

Developing Technical Competency and Enhancing the Soft Skills of Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Students through Service-Learning

Margaret F. Pinnell, Ph. D., Leon Chuck University of Dayton

Abstract: New ABET requirements have encouraged engineering faculty to help students develop “soft skills.” Among these soft skills includes the ability to work in teams and communicate effectively, appreciation of different cultures and business practices, understanding the global nature of business and engineering and understanding the societal, economic and environmental impact of engineering. Inclusion of these soft skills into an already packed engineering curriculum can be difficult. One approach that appears to be effective at helping students develop the soft skills without compromising the acquisition of technical knowledge is service-learning. Service-learning is a form of project based experiential learning where the students are engaged in an activity that meets the specific needs of a community or nonprofit organization. When correctly implemented, both the service and educational objectives are met. Service-learning has been incorporated with varying degrees of success into many courses and/or curriculum in many universities across the United States since the late 1980’s .1-3 However, only a small fraction of the service-learning activity has been in the engineering disciplines. 1, 4 This is very unfortunate since many of the problems that exist in the world require engineering intervention. During the fall semester of 2002, the Introduction to Materials Laboratory Class from the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at the University of Dayton was involved with a service learning project through ETHOS (Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service-Learning). This project supported the work of the service organization, Aprovecho. The overall technical objective of the project was to improve the efficiency of a wood burning cook stove or “eco-stoves” by proper selection of the insulative brick materials used to make the stoves. In the Materials Laboratory, students manufactured three formulations of insulative bricks and assessed their properties by conducting various mechanical and physical tests. The educational goals of this project were to provide the students with a hands-on, service- learning experience to enhance their technical, program management, computer and communication skills. Another educational goal of this program was to expose the students to ideas of appropriate technology, environmental responsibility and ethics, cultural diversity and cultural sensitivity. This paper will focus on the educational objectives and outcomes associated with this service-learning project. Details of the project including student responsibilities, reflection and methods of assessing student performance will be addressed.

Introduction: Industry and academia have identified the need for engineering students to develop soft skills in addition to technical skills. Examples of some of the soft skills are oral and written communication, project management, the ability to work well on a team, leadership, an appreciation of different cultures and business practices, engineering ethics and understanding

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Pinnell, M., & Chuck, L. (2004, June), Developing Technical Competency And Enhancing The Soft Skills Of Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Students Through Service Learning Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13956

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