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Exploring how engineering students learn the process of problem identification for community development

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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

Community Engagement Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.579.1 - 23.579.14



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Paper Authors


Nathan E Canney P.E. University of Colorado Boulder

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Nathan Canney is a doctoral candidate in Civil Engineering, with a research focus on engineering education. Nathan has bachelor's degrees in civil engineering and mathematics from Seattle University and a master's degree in structural engineering from Stanford University. His current research focuses on the development of personal and professional social responsibility in engineering students.

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Kaitlin Litchfield University of Colorado, Boulder

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Kaitlin Litchfield received her undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering at the University of New Hampshire and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Colorado at Boulder in the Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering Department focusing in engineering education.

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Molly Victoria Shea University of Colorado

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Molly Shea is a dual degree candidate receiving her Ph.D. from the School of Education, Learning Sciences and master's of business administration. She specializes in studying distributing cognition in out of classroom settings. Her dissertation focuses studying on learning for innovation in sustainable business.

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Designing for Cross-Disciplinary Service-Learning Projects in Our Own BackyardA significant challenge for engineering educators who use service-learning is to design alearning environment that meets the requirements of academic rigor in engineering andserves the needs of the partner communities. An added complexity enters when thesetasks are attempted across disciplines. This paper will detail the design and preliminaryexecution of a cross-disciplinary service–learning project involving the schools ofengineering, education, business, and a local non-profit organization. Students in all threedisciplines will be exposed to a variety of technical and non-technical issues related tocommunity development. Our research questions include: (i) what are some practicalimplications of organizing cross-disciplinary service-learning projects, and (ii) how doesthe cross-disciplinary nature of such projects affect student learning and project quality?This service-learning project is located in a low-income, predominantly Spanish-speaking, urban community. The project is focused on assisting a community non-profitorganization striving to improve the local environmental, economic, and social systemsof this neighborhood. Engineering master’s students in a sustainable communitydevelopment course will conduct a needs assessment and design preliminary solutions toaddress those needs. Education doctoral students in an introductory qualitative methodscourse will focus on if activities with and within the community affect learning for thestudents and the community, and, if so, how. Business students will be involved throughthe design of a case competition focused on implementing financially sustainablesolutions from the engineering student work. Students from all three disciplines willinteract and work together throughout the project.The design of our study considers how interdisciplinary work in a marginalizedcommunity changes the learning environment for students. We understand learning tohappen as people participate in activities together. We attend to the designed service-learning activities incorporated into the business school activities, engineering andeducation course designs, and the research training of several local community members.We focus on talk and activity within the multiple contexts of the study in order tounderstand how students attend to disciplinary concerns as well as the social system thataffect the design process.

Canney, N. E., & Litchfield, K., & Shea, M. V. (2013, June), Exploring how engineering students learn the process of problem identification for community development Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19593

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