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Enhancing Cross Cultural Understanding Among Engineering Students:The Technology And Human Development Project

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.176.1 - 2.176.12

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Mark A. Shields

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

Session 2660

Enhancing Cross-Cultural Understanding Among Engineering Students:The Technology and Human Development Project

Mark A. Shields University of Virginia


This paper discusses a unique curriculum unit designed to promote cross-cultural analysis and understanding in a technology-related problem-solving context. The “Technology and Human Development Project” (THDP), a five-week team-based project for 55 first-semester engineering students (12% of the entering class) at the University of Virginia, had the following objectives:

(1) Enhance students’ abilities to analyze complex systemic relationships related to technology and human development in a cross-cultural context, especially the strengths and limitations of technological means for enhancing human capabilities, human development, and thus the quality of life.

(2) Introduce students to the concepts of human development, human capabilities, quality of life, and sociotechnological systems–and their significant interrelationships in different nations throughout the world.

(3) Apply analytical, statistical, and interpretive modes of reasoning and critical thinking to a specific current problem of technology and human development in a country or region of the world.

(4) Work in cooperative research teams to investigate and propose plausible solutions to the problem, taking into account technical, ethical, social, economic, political, and cultural constraints and opportunities.

(5) Present the results of a team research project and analysis in both a written report and poster-and-oral presentation, judged by UVA engineering faculty.

The paper discusses the results and an evaluation of the THDP, focusing especially on its implications for enhancing students’ abilities to integrate technical-engineering and socio- cultural analysis in addressing specific global development challenges. The paper also discusses the advantages and drawbacks of using teams for this kind of project assignment. Undergraduate cooperative learning projects like the THDP respond to the educational values of the new ABET criteria and also contribute to ongoing interests in “globalizing engineering education” and 1, 2 revitalizing the first-year curriculum.

Shields, M. A. (1997, June), Enhancing Cross Cultural Understanding Among Engineering Students:The Technology And Human Development Project Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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