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Immersive Community Engagement Experience

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Socio-cultural Elements of Learning through Service

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.689.1 - 24.689.11



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Paper Authors


Carla B. Zoltowski Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Carla B. Zoltowski, Ph.D., is Co-Director of the EPICS Program at Purdue University. She received her B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering and Ph.D. in engineering education, all from Purdue University. She has served as a lecturer in Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Dr. Zoltowski’s academic and research interests include human-centered design learning and assessment, service-learning, ethical reasoning development and assessment, leadership, and assistive technology.

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Antonette T. Cummings P.E. Purdue University

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Antonette Cummings is a Ph.D. student in Engineering Education at Purdue University. She holds an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

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William C. Oakes Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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William (Bill) Oakes is the Director of the EPICS Program and Professor at Purdue University. He is one of the founding faculty members in the School of Engineering Education with courtesy appointments in Mechanical, Environmental and Ecological Engineering as well as Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education. He has received numerous awards for his efforts at Purdue including being elected as a fellow of the Teaching Academy and listed in the Book of Great Teachers. He was the first engineer to receive the U.S. Campus Compact Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service-Learning. He was a co-recipient of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering’s Bernard Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education and the recipient of the ASEE Chester Carlson Award for Innovation in Engineering Education. He is a fellow of ASEE and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).

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Immersive Community Engagement ExperienceAs the number of community engagement efforts increase, it is important to understand theimpact of these experiences to inform best practices and to ensure that the efforts are positivelybenefitting all of the stakeholders. Although our program is well-established, engagingmultidisciplinary teams of students in community-based design projects, we continue to offernew opportunities and take a research-informed approach to evaluating these opportunities.Our program has intentionally focused on long-term partnerships and local community partnersbecause of the learning benefits afforded through the ability to engage with community partnersmore regularly. Previous studies have indicated that understanding the nature of thoseinteractions is important. For example, research suggests that critical experiences (where designassumptions are confronted) and immersive experiences are needed to develop morecomprehensive ways of understanding design. These kinds of experience include internationaltrips to experience the culture of a partner community.This past summer our service-learning design program had the opportunity to offer a localimmersive design experience to a group of 13 students from a variety of majors in a camp forchildren with disabilities. The students completed one week on campus, then traveled to a campfor a week where they ate meals and interacted with the campers and met with variousstakeholders. The students then returned to campus to continue work on the designs.Throughout this course, the students completed daily reflections on their experiences, describingwhat they learned, how they learned it, and the impact of that learning.This paper describes the immersive experience and examines its impact on student learningthrough analyses of the student reflections and course evaluations. In addition, it describes howthese findings can inform this program specifically, as well as courses and programs that engagein design using a service-learning pedagogy.

Zoltowski, C. B., & Cummings, A. T., & Oakes, W. C. (2014, June), Immersive Community Engagement Experience Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20581

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