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Engaged Interdisciplinary Engineering Design in a Minka House for the Aging

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Community Engagement in Diverse Contexts

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors


Brandon S. Field University of Southern Indiana

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Brandon Field teaches in the thermal fluids area of mechanical engineering at the University of Southern Indiana, Evansville.

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Adam Giles Tennant


David J. Ellert PE University of Southern Indiana

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Dave Ellert teaches freshman engineering problem solving, computer aided drafting and design (CAD) and computer programming. He has a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University. Dave has been on the USI Department of Engineering faculty since 2003.

Dave is a license professional engineer registered in the state of Indiana. Prior to teaching, Dave worked 18 years as a consulting engineer designing HVAC systems for buildings.

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Several faculty from the Engineering Department have been involved in the Minka House Project, which was brought to the University by an innovator in gerontology care and his partnership with the College Nursing and Health Professions. The house is designed and constructed to be have a small and efficient floor plan that is easily accessible -- so as to allow for longer period of independent living by the residents -- and to be modular in fabrication out of standard wood panels using CNC wood tools -- so as to allow for affordable construction but still allow aspects of customization by the residents. A pilot demonstration house is being constructed on the University's campus through a joint project between the Gerontology Department, the Engineering Department, and the external developer, which includes medical professionals as well as aging experts.

There are several aspects of the project that engineering faculty and students have been and are continuing to be involved in. The site selection for the on campus installation was primarily driven by campus facilities personnel, but civil engineering faculty also contributed to the planning. Prior to and during construction, the soils engineering class and the construction estimating classes both visited the work site (which is centrally located on campus) to collect soil samples, observe the construction process and talk with the workers. The thermal envelope of the building and additions and modifications to the climate control aspects of the house design have been considered by a mechanical engineering faculty. Aspects of the manufacturing process are being studied by a team of senior capstone design students to develop a work-cell arrangement for the future phase of the project that would involve building a community of these small houses, where fabrication would be done locally with new equipment.

The efforts and findings of these projects will be discussed, especially in the context of how engineering students are being used in this engaged project.

Field, B. S., & Tennant, A. G., & Ellert, D. J. (2019, June), Engaged Interdisciplinary Engineering Design in a Minka House for the Aging Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32706

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