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Implementation of an International Health Assessment with a Multidisciplinary Team of Undergraduate Engineering and Science Students

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Capstone and International Experiences

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.728.1 - 25.728.10



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Paper Authors


Michael J. Rust Western New England University

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Michael J. Rust received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2003 and 2009, respectively. During his undergraduate training, he worked for Ethicon Endo-Surgery and AtriCure companies, which specialize in the development of novel surgical devices. While completing his doctoral dissertation, Rust served as an NSF GK-12 Graduate Fellow, which allowed him to develop hands-on engineering activities for high school students. In 2009, he joined the faculty of Western New England University as an Assistant Professor of biomedical engineering. He currently teaches undergraduate courses in bioinstrumentation, biomedical systems, circuit analysis, lab-on-a-chip, and global health. He also serves as the Faculty Advisor for the Engineering World Health (EWH) Club, and is a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). His research interests involve the development of point-of-care medical technologies, including bioinstrumentation for use in low-resource settings.

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Steven G. Northrup Western New England University

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Steven G. Northrup is an Associate Professor of electrical and computer engineering at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass. His research interests are in systems engineering and control systems in alternative energy power production, embedded control systems, humanoid and mobile robotics, and pedagogy of multidisciplinary teamwork. He has worked on alternative energy systems in Guatemala and the U.S. Prior to joining Western New England University, he was an Electronics Design Engineer for the Ford Motor Company Electronics Division and a Software Engineer for Nichols Research Corporation. He earned a M.S. and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Vanderbilt University and a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan.

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Implementation of an International Health Assessment with a Multidisciplinary Team of Undergraduate Engineering and Science StudentsModern engineers must be adept at functioning in a variety of roles in the workplace, includingoperating as productive members of multidisciplinary teams [1]. As a result, undergraduateengineering programs must provide opportunities for students to acquire skills in several non-technical areas, including teaming and leadership development. It is particularly important thatthese skill sets be developed during experiences that involve real problems rather than traditional“academic” exercises, since students are more likely to retain skills if the problem context isauthentic [2]. In this work, we describe an authentic learning experience involving aninternational health assessment implemented by a multidisciplinary team of undergraduateengineering and science students.The health assessment was completed as part of an international field experience integratedwithin a multidisciplinary global health course. The student population for the course, which wasoffered for the first time in Spring 2011, included engineers and scientists from the first throughthe third year of study. Throughout the semester, students attended lectures on a variety of globalhealth topics, including the collection of data for assessing healthcare in specific geographicregions. At the end of the semester, the course instructors led the students on an 11-day fieldexperience in Guatemala. During the field experience, students implemented a health assessmentof the region by interviewing and surveying various stakeholders at two clinical care facilities.The first healthcare facility visited was a large regional hospital in a metropolitan community.The second facility was a small health clinic operated by a mission in a rural village. In eachcase, students worked in multidisciplinary teams to survey or interview administrators,healthcare workers, and patients to collect the relevant data. The results of the health assessmentwere then analyzed by the course instructors after returning from Guatemala.In order to assess the impact of the multidisciplinary experience on the students, a set of pre- andpost-course surveys were developed and administered. The results from the surveys showedincreased student-reported confidence in their ability to develop solutions to global health issuesafter completing the course. Additionally, student comments reflected the personal andprofessional growth that occurred during the experience, including a desire to apply theirrespective professional skills to help others in need.The results of the health assessment are currently being used to develop global health projectsthat will be completed by engineering students as part of the senior design curriculum. It isexpected that some of the students who implemented the health assessment will complete theseprojects, thus reinforcing the authentic nature of the multidisciplinary experience. Additionally,the health assessment data will be used to provide specialized content for future offerings of theglobal health course, thus providing a long-term impact on the student population at ourinstitution.References[1] Grand challenges for engineering, National Academy of Engineering. Available online:[2] J.D. Bransford, A.L. Brown, and R.R. Cocking, Eds., How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000.

Rust, M. J., & Northrup, S. G. (2012, June), Implementation of an International Health Assessment with a Multidisciplinary Team of Undergraduate Engineering and Science Students Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21485

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