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Drawing Upon Non-Engineering Disciplines to Research Sustainability of Engineered Infrastructure in South America

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Diversity in Community Engagement Implementation I

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Ann-Perry Witmer P.E. Univerity of Illinois College of Engineering Orcid 16x16

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A teaching associate and professional civil engineer, Ann-Perry Witmer has brought to the classroom her experience working on drinking water projects with communities in the developing world. Ms. Witmer holds degrees in engineering, journalism and art history, and values the importance of developing a well-rounded understanding of the communities she serves. She has taught courses in international service design, as well as introductory engineering courses for freshmen, at the University of Illinois since 2013.

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Keilin Jahnke University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Keilin Jahnke is a graduate student in Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the University of Illinois. She completed her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in the Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering department at Illinois with concentrations in sustainable international development and creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

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The academy has evaluated and debated the merits of international service learning from the perspective of the student, but little research exists to assess the success and sustainability of an engineered infrastructure system over an extended period of time from a developing community’s perspective. The [university] is in the process of implementing a new course that will exist for ten years and will bring together the College of Engineering, along with departments of Community Health, Anthropology, Global Studies and Urban Planning, to collaboratively teach an undergraduate research course targeted at evaluating baseline conditions preceding implementation of a new irrigation system for the indigenous community of Lumbisi, Ecuador. This paper will document the development of the course, the proposed instructional objectives and community outcomes, and the process of effectively engaging students in this work. The course is being offered for the first time in Spring 2016, co-taught by faculty from all five departments, plus an additional collaborator at the [university in Ecuador] College of Engineering. All six educational units share knowledge and resources, both in the classroom and via a virtual meeting space, which also is accessible by the community itself. While the research course will track the process of design, implementation, maintenance and modification of the irrigation system over the next ten years, students of Engineers Without Borders [university] Chapter and EWB Ecuador will team with the community to devise an actual infrastructure design that meets both the needs and cultural constraints of the indigenous community. This innovative approach to cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural, and cross-organizational international service learning is expected to generate significant data regarding the factors that most strongly affect sustainability of an engineered infrastructure.

Witmer, A., & Jahnke, K. (2016, June), Drawing Upon Non-Engineering Disciplines to Research Sustainability of Engineered Infrastructure in South America Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26868

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