June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Design in Engineering Education
11.705.1 - 11.705.15
Humanitarian Design Projects: Helping Children with Cerebral Palsy Introduction
The fundamental role of engineers is to serve society, and the most important ingredient of any society is the people. However, in the unfortunately chaotic and hectic lifestyles of the 21st century this fundamental role is often lost in the mists of professional practice when an engineer is required to design a nominally mundane item like a door handle for the next generation of automobiles. A profoundly meaningful and very effective way of educating engineering students, which exposes them to the societal service traditionally offered by professional engineers, is to utilize senior level humanitarian design projects. Such projects of experiential learning immerse student teams in complicated tasks that ultimately help people less fortunate than themselves.
Since 1998 the Design Program in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University has incorporated a series of humanitarian projects in the industrially-funded capstone projects class. During the past two years, four humanitarian projects have focused on the design, fabrication, and testing of mobility devices for children with cerebral palsy. These demanding projects have been very successful in providing our students with an outstanding engineering experience, providing the department with significant good-citizenship publicity, and, most important of all, improving the life of numerous children.
Service learning has certainly become one of the most innovative aspects to engineering education. One such example is the EPICS program at Purdue, which involves the volunteer work of engineering students in the community1. Another example is the Humanitarian Engineering Program, which is sponsored by the Hewlett Foundation, at the Colorado School of Mines2. The New Engineer Program at the University of Dayton3 involves student teams in the conceptual designs of bicycles for different users and applications.
This paper shares our experiences in the development and implementation of these projects. The logistics of these projects is discussed, in addition to identifying potential projects and customers, the necessary resources, how to identify qualified students and faculty, and finally issues concerning project management. Each project will be presented in some detail including the technical and logistical challenges faced by the student design teams. The paper concludes with some final observations and discussion on the publicity and visibility aspects of humanitarian projects.
These humanitarian projects are undertaken by teams of senior-level mechanical engineering students registered in the capstone design course ME 481, Mechanical Engineering Design Projects, for a team of senior-level mechanical engineering students. Most of the projects are industrially-based in this course with the student team working on a funded project. However, each semester, at least one project is humanitarian-based where the student team is challenged to make a difference in the lives of people that are less fortunate than themselves. Such projects
Somerton, C., & Thompson, B., & Haddow, A. (2006, June), Humanitarian Design Projects: Helping Children With Cerebral Palsy Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/37
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