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Engineering Education Through Service Learning: Two Case Studies

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Engineering Without Borders Programs Involving Students

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

11.555.1 - 11.555.8



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Paper Authors


Evan Thomas University of Colorado-Boulder

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Evan Thomas is a doctoral student at the University of Colorado at Boulder in Aerospace Engineering Bioastronautics. He is a civil servant employee at NASA's Johnson Space Center, working in the Life Support and Habitability Systems Branch in the Crew and Thermal Systems Division. Evan's research at CU-Boulder and at NASA is in Microgravity Fire Detection, analyzing the feasibility of a Modulated Laser Analyzer for Combustion Products (MLA-CP) for the crewed spacecraft environment. Evan has been leading EWB-USA projects in Rwanda and Nepal. He founded the EWB-JSC chapter at NASA.

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Robyn Sandekian University of Colorado-Boulder

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Robyn Sandekian is Associate Director of the Engineering for Developing Communities Program and the Service Learning Program Coordinator for the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

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Andrew Azman University of Colorado-Boulder

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Andrew Azman is a recent graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder in Civil Engineering. Andrew developed and implemented the first use of biodiesel on the CU-Boulder campus, which has grown into widespread use of the fuel throughout the city. Andrew was the project manager for the Engineers Without Borders-USA CU-Boulder Chapter Peru project, developing a sustainable water infrastructure for a remote rural village. Andrew currently works as a water resource engineer for Cahill Associates designing sustainable low impact stormwater management solutions.

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Bernard Amadei University of Colorado-Boulder

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Bernard Amadei is Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of Engineering for Developing Communities Program at CU Boulder. He is the founder of Engineers Without Borders-USA and co-founder of EWB-International.

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

Engineering Education through Service Learning in Developing Communities: Two Case Studies


This paper provides case studies of two service learning projects that University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder) students are integrating into their academic experience. The projects focus on developing communities and are managed under the auspices of Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA), a group founded by Dr. Bernard Amadei, Professor of Civil Engineering at CU-Boulder. These projects expand students’ understanding of the social value of their chosen profession, and expose them to a type of engineering significantly different than what is presented in most of their classes. Specifically, focusing on developing communities provides students with the opportunity to design solutions to some of the problems faced by the five billion people on our planet who are poor. It also challenges engineering students to identify vital non-technical issues which may be the greatest roadblocks to poverty alleviation through sustainable community development.

One-fifth of human beings on our planet are unable to read, and “more than 1 billion people lack access to safe water and 2.6 billion lack access to improved sanitation.”1 In a world where these problems seem practically beyond comprehension, it’s sometimes difficult to envision how individuals can make a difference. Many of the huge infrastructure projects in the developing world over the past half-century have failed within two years because the necessary education and revenue to maintain them was not available. The United Nations has identified a new approach to development – the emphasis must be on small-scale solutions developed in partnership with local communities.

Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA) uses this approach to solve issues that developing communities face. EWB-USA began in San Pablo, Belize, a Mayan village of about 250 people. In April of 2000, a representative of the Belize Ministry of Agriculture invited Dr. Amadei to visit San Pablo to examine the possibility of designing and installing a water delivery system to the village. Since the village has no electricity, running water, or sanitation, and because most villagers work at a nearby banana plantation, the responsibility for carrying drinking and irrigation water from a nearby river to the village fell to the village children. In May of 2001, the project team, comprised of CU-Boulder students and a civil engineering expert from Boulder, installed a pipeline between the nearby river and the village. This pipeline allowed the village children to go to school, rather than carrying water to the village. The entire project was completed at an approximate cost of $15,000, coupled with the labor provided by the local community.

This project demonstrated the potential of a partnership working together to help a local, developing community create a sustainable solution. All the necessary elements for success were in place on this project; an important public entity in the form of the Ministry of

Thomas, E., & Sandekian, R., & Azman, A., & Amadei, B. (2006, June), Engineering Education Through Service Learning: Two Case Studies Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--339

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