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Engagement in Practice: Pedestrian Bridges as Engineering Service-learning Projects

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Community Engagement Division Technical Session 6

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

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Jay H. Arehart University of Colorado Boulder Orcid 16x16

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Jay Arehart is an Instructor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder and has volunteered as the Education Manager for the Engineers in Action Bridge Program since 2017. Jay's teaching focuses on project-based courses for architectural engineering students including architectural studios and capstone projects.

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Kathryn Langenfeld University of Michigan

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Brenton Kreiger

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Pedestrian bridges not only provide access for rural underserved communities across the globe, but also provide an avenue for undergraduate students to engage in an engineering project that has immediate and tangible impact. Historically, students across a wide range of universities have engaged in pedestrian bridge projects alongside non-profit organizations such as Engineers without Borders, Bridges to Prosperity, and Engineers in Action. These non-profit organizations are the liaison between student teams and underserved communities, identifying the communities in need of pedestrian bridges and coordinating with local governments and skilled workers to prepare for the implementation of the project.

This Engagement in Practice paper aims to describe how pedestrian bridge projects can be excellent candidates for service-learning projects through a case study project. On-campus, the students learned the fundamentals of bridge design and construction through a series of asynchronous online courses. This knowledge was then applied in the context of a real-world project. Upon completion of the design, the students developed a construction and safety plan, which they implemented during an 8-week implementation trip.

As students engaged in this project as an extracurricular activity, their on-campus performance suffered due to the competing demands of coursework. Yet, while in-country, the students achieved many of the learning outcomes as it was their primary focus. They not only implemented a complex engineering project, but also learned how to effectively communicate across cultures and how the bridge project fit into the broader development goals of the community. Pedestrian bridge projects are service-learning projects that have the capacity to engage a number of civil engineering disciplines. And in the future, we aim to explore how these projects can be incorporated into the curriculum to allow for additional engagement from faculty to improve achievement of learning outcomes and project success.

Arehart, J. H., & Langenfeld, K., & Kreiger, B. (2021, July), Engagement in Practice: Pedestrian Bridges as Engineering Service-learning Projects Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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