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Engineering Design, Project Management, and Community Service Connected Through Servant Leadership

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Assessment of Community Engagement

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.504.1 - 23.504.13



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Paper Authors


Matthew J. Traum Milwaukee School of Engineering Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Matthew J. Traum is an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). He received a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [2007] where he held a research assistantship at MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN). At MIT he invented a new nano-enabled garment to provide simultaneous ballistic and thermal protection to infantry soldiers. Dr. Traum also earned his master’s degree in Mechanical Engineeringwith a focus on Cryogenics from MIT in 2003 and two bachelor’s degrees from the University of California, Irvine in 2001: one in mechanical engineering and the second in aerospace engineering. In addition, he attended the University of Bristol, UK as a non-matriculating visiting scholar where he completed an M.Eng thesis in the Department of Aerospace Engineering in 2000 on low-speed rotorcraft control. Prior to his appointment at MSOE, Dr. Traum was a founding faculty member of the Mechanical and Energy Engineering Department at the University of North Texas where he established an externally-funded researcher incubator that trained undergraduates how to perform experimental research and encouraged their matriculation to graduate school. Dr. Traum also serves as the founding Chief Technology Officer at EASENET, Inc., a start-up renewable energy company he co-founded with his former students to commercialize residential scale waste-to-energy biomass processor systems.

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David A Howell Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Dr. David Howell currently holds the Pieper Family Endowed chair for Servant-Leadership. Dr. Howell is an assistant professor in the General Studies Department and also serves as Technical Communication program director. He teaches courses in literature, technical communication and research methods. He received an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. from Washington State University. His writing has appeared in a wide variety of publications including Seven Hundred Kisses and Pillow: Exploring the Heart of Eros, and he recently published a chapbook titled In Sixteen Hands of Shadow.

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Leah C. Newman MSOE

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Leah Newman, Ph.D., is an assistant professor and has been with the IE Program at MSOE since the fall of 2007. Dr. Newman’s research interests are in the study and design of medium-to-large-scale systems, particularly as it relates to the “human factors” needs of the system. Specifically, she is interested in further exploring the area of social innovation as it relates to issues of culture and organizational and job design, to name a few. She is also interested in further exploring research and other ideas in the area of financial engineering. During her time at MSOE, Dr. Newman has taught classes in the area of Human Factors/Ergonomics, Financial Engineering, Team Work and Leadership, Project Management, Safety and Engineering Socio-technical Systems. Dr. Newman received her B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in IE from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Engineering Design, Project Management, and Community Service Connected Through Servant LeadershipAbstractServant-Leadership is a leadership that emphasizes power sharing in decision making processes.It encourages leaders to serve those they manage by propelling them toward high achievementwhile promoting their professional growth and self-efficacy. Servant-Leadership is also beingpioneered as a teaching pedagogy at University X, which is unique because most academicinstitutions subscribe to the service learning model. In conventional academic settings,instructors are the authority figures with control over content, knowledge, assessment, andcourse outcomes. By contrast, Servant-Leadership places instructors at the bottom of an invertedpower pyramid where they provide a supportive foundation for the students above them.The authors hypothesize that this supportive structure lends itself ideally to faculty mentorship ofengineering design-and-build projects; for example capstone senior design projects. In well-managed student projects, faculty members do none of the actual design or construction work.Instead, they mentor a team of students toward successful completion of the challenge.To evaluate the impact of a Servant-Leadership teaching pedagogy, a collaborativeinterdisciplinary program was implemented that combined three components: 1) a curriculum-integrated design-and-build project; 2) an industrial engineering project management course; and3) sponsored service to the community. Service is particularly attractive to current college-agepeople; so, projects serving the community are highly valued in promoting student recruiting.One project, representative of the overall program, is reported here. Within a one facultymember’s quarter-long senior-level mechanical engineering thermodynamics course, studentsdesigned, built, tested, and deployed three miniature aquaponic demonstration units for theSweet Water Foundation (SWF), a Milwaukee-based non-profit organization. The SWF missionis to teach the public about sustainable urban agriculture. The project’s mechanical engineering(ME) students were supported by students taking an industrial engineering (IE) projectmanagement course from a different faculty member. IE students served as project managers.Simultaneously, a third faculty member, expert in implementing Servant-Leadership as ateaching pedagogy, secured project funding from the Brady Foundation while guiding the courseinstructors in mentoring students as Servant-Leaders.We report both qualitative and quantitative results from this interdisciplinary project guided byServant-Leadership. Individual faculty members report best practices learned by mentoring theME and IE students respectively through successful project completion using a Servant-Leadership teaching pedagogy. We also present and analyze data compiled from IE and MEstudent participants in the broader program to quantify the positive impact on our institution’sculture enabled through community service and faculty mentoring projects using the Servant-Leadership pedagogy.

Traum, M. J., & Howell, D. A., & Newman, L. C. (2013, June), Engineering Design, Project Management, and Community Service Connected Through Servant Leadership Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19518

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