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Engineering Change: Addressing Need Through Collaborative Processes and Modest Means (A Case Study)

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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 5

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Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors


Scott Gerald Shall Lawrence Technological University

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Scott Gerald Shall, AIA, is an Associate Professor and the Associate Dean of the College of Architecture and Design at Lawrence Technological University (LTU) and the founding director of the International Design Clinic (IDC,, a registered non-profit that realizes socially-responsive creative action with communities in need around the world. Since founding the IDC in 2006, Shall has worked through this organization to complete over a dozen projects on four continents. Shall’s work in this arena has been disseminated widely, including presentations at Third and Fifth International Symposia On Service Learning In Higher Education, lectures at Brown University, the University of Maryland, and the New School for Design, publications by the AIA Press and the University of Indianapolis Press and exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Art in La Paz, Bolivia, the Sheldon Swope Museum of Art, the Goldstein Museum of Design, the Venice Architecture Biennale and MoMA.

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During the summer of 2019, a team of eleven students, faculty and professionals with backgrounds in architecture, design and engineering traveled to Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where they partnered with local community members to design and construct an event- and maker-space from scavenged materials. Now completed, the work has offered the community a physical and inspirational base of operations for future projects. Physically, the makerspace offers the members of the community a place to store tools, organize and refine scavenged materials and construct future work. As a precedent, the makerspace demonstrates the value and potential of creatively reusing found objects in the construction of much-needed engineering and architectural projects. The fact that this makerspace was completed by a team of eleven in only ten days – three days scavenging materials and designing and seven days constructing – and with a budget of only $1500 makes this potential resonate. For our partners, who live and work within post-apartheid communities of great need, this frugality is not a nicety, but an essential attribute. For it is only through working within such limits that the work is able to shift from a tantalizing one-off that only serves to increase the community’s dependence on outside support to a blueprint through which they might realize new works for years to come.

In the summer of 2020, a small team of students, architects, engineers, and designers continued this work, remotely. During their brief time on the project, this team once again partnered with the members of local communities to leverage the physical and inspirational foundation offered by the already completed makerspace to design schools, clinics, and other much-needed community works. These works, like the foundational work upon which they were based, were created using only accessible means: scavenged materials, common tools and easily-learned construction techniques. This approach made accessible the work, empowering the community to not only construct the work, but to support the continued evolution of these projects, and create new ones. If successful, this propagation can continue indefinitely, allowing the community to ostensibly rebuild itself using modest means, and without external support.

The presentation proposed by this abstract will describe the process used to create these works, highlight the lessons learned through its execution and offer insight into how this process, and the resulting work, will be refined in the future.

Shall, S. G. (2021, July), Engineering Change: Addressing Need Through Collaborative Processes and Modest Means (A Case Study) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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