July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Community Engagement Division
The 2020-21 academic year marks the fourth of our university’s redesigned mechanical engineering capstone course sequence—and also the fourth in which we will partner with a campus Research Institute and external NGO to address post-harvest agricultural challenges that disproportionately impact vulnerable communities in developing countries. Student teams explore the needs of the users, and look to understand the cultural and societal context for the projects. Student outcomes are targeted in accordance with ABET requirements for baccalaureate degree programs and emphasize application of mechanical engineering skills, design, communication, testing, and teamwork. The long-term community partner relationship facilitates continuity of learning as students build on work completed by earlier teams, refining design concepts while tackling new challenges. The course has also provided opportunities for students to continue their work over the summer and after graduation. One example project sequence includes developing a structure to enable thermal storage for rapid produce drying (Year 1), airflow optimization within the structure (Year 2), measurement of produce quality, irrigation systems (Year 3), and blanching to speed the drying process (Year 4). Designs consider systems developed by previous students; as an example, the irrigation system designed in Year 3 uses water from the Year 1 thermal storage tank and delivers water via the racking system developed in Year 2. We are working in close partnership with our University’s Center for Public Service and Office of Community Engaged Learning to build both an educational program and research agenda that emphasize the value of reciprocity, partnership, reflection, evaluation, and respect for diversity. In this paper, we present the lessons learned from our first four years, including assessment of our partnership model, impact on our community partner, and contributions to our institution’s research.
Cohen, S., & Wood, J. (2021, July), Engagement in Practice: Creating an Enduring Partnership in a Mechanical Engineering Capstone Course Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37037
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