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Engineering And Sustainable Community Development: Critical Pedagogy In Education For “Engineering To Help”

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Normative Commitments and Public Engagement in Engineering

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.475.1 - 15.475.16



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Paper Authors

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Juan Lucena Colorado School of Mines

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Jen Schneider Colorado School of Mines

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Jon Leydens Colorado School of Mines

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

Engineering and Sustainable Community Development (ESCD): Critical Pedagogy in Education for “Engineering to Help”

“Don’t come here [to my community] to help! Come here to listen, to find out if our [community’s] struggles are your struggles. Then and only then, we can sit and discuss how, if at all, we can work together.”

--Gustavo Esteva, community activist in Chiapas, Mexico, challenging engineering students enrolled in the course Engineering and Sustainable Community Development


Over the past ten years, engineers and engineering students and faculty have increasingly turned their efforts toward “underserved” communities. Such efforts raise important questions. Is there anything problematic with wanting to help a community? How do engineers listen to a community? If invited, how do engineers work with a community?

Wondering about questions like these in relationship to engineering courses, design projects, volunteer activities, or international assignments motivated us to develop a project in critical pedagogy entitled Engineering and Sustainable Community Development. Our project is a critical pedagogy, one aimed at enhancing students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes to reflect on the historical and political location of engineering, question the authority and relevance of engineering problem-solving and design methods, and “examine their education, including learning objectives, the course syllabus, and the textbook itself” (Riley, 2008, p. 113). Specifically, our project is aimed at engineering education as it relates to a diversity of these efforts, which we call “Engineering to Help” (ETH). ETH initiatives often exist under names such as community service, humanitarian engineering, service learning, Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) and Engineering World Health (EWH). There has been a blossoming of ETH-related programs in the US and abroad, as evidenced, for example, by the large number of EWB chapters in universities worldwide and the upsurge of engineering design courses and extra-curricular activities with ETH-dimensions and goals. At the same time, there is increasing questioning into and assessment of the processes and outcomes of such projects (e.g., Schneider, Lucena and Leydens, 2009; Nieusma and Riley, 2010). Engineers have, up to this point, rarely engaged in such critical questioning: generally, there is a lack of student- and faculty-friendly critical reflections of engineers’ involvement in ETH work. The question arises: what critical reflections might emerge from learning about the history of engineers in development or about the complexity of engaging and listening to communities? To fill that void, we conducted historical, ethnographic and other investigations.

Lucena, J., & Schneider, J., & Leydens, J. (2010, June), Engineering And Sustainable Community Development: Critical Pedagogy In Education For “Engineering To Help” Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16207

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