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Epics: Experiencing Engineering Design Through Community Service Projects

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.280.1 - 5.280.12



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Paper Authors

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William C. Oakes

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Ronald Wukasch

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Richard Foretek

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Jennifer Watia

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Jeffery L. Gray

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Leah H Jamieson

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Edward Coyle

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

Session 2625

EPICS: Experiencing Engineering Design Through Community Service Projects

William C. Oakes Edward J. Coyle, Richard Fortek, Jeffery Gray, Leah H. Jamieson, Jennifer Watia, and Ronald Wukasch

Purdue University/Alcoa


In the search for ways to simulate “real” design experiences in our classrooms, the model of service learning is often overlooked within engineering. It is, however, a powerful model for learning the engineering design process. At Purdue University the EPICS - Engineering Projects in Community Service – program is doing just that. Under this program, undergraduate students in engineering earn academic credit for long-term team projects that solve technology-based problems for local community service organizations. The program currently has 20 project teams with approximately 250 students participating during the 1999 academic year. Each EPICS project team consists of ten to fifteen students and is paired with a local community service organization that functions as its customer. Each team has a faculty or industrial adviser. The teams are interdisciplinary including students from Electrical, Computer, Mechanical, Civil, Aerospace, Industrial and Materials Engineering as well as from Computer Science, Chemistry, Sociology, Nursing, Visual Design, English and Education. The teams are vertically-integrated - each is a mix of freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors - and a student can participate in a project for up to three and a half years. The continuity provided by this structure allows projects to last for many years. Projects of significant size and impact are thus possible. Four projects are highlighted to illustrate the multidisciplinary aspects of the program. The projects selected illustrate mechanical, civil and electrical hardware and software design in the context of service learning. A discussion of how the program objectives align with the ABET 2000 criteria is also included.

Introduction The importance of significant design experiences to prepare undergraduate engineering students for engineering careers has been well-documented [1,2]. These experiences should emphasize the application of the technical skills in the classroom as well as the "softer" skills such as communication, working as a team and customer interaction [3-5]. The need for such experiences has spawned many innovative approaches to senior capstone design courses [6,7] as well as design courses for underclassmen [8-11]. The most common model for these courses has

Oakes, W. C., & Wukasch, R., & Foretek, R., & Watia, J., & Gray, J. L., & Jamieson, L. H., & Coyle, E. (2000, June), Epics: Experiencing Engineering Design Through Community Service Projects Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8360

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