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Insights Gained from the First Teaching of a Multidisciplinary Appropriate Technology Course

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Division: Curricula, Criteria, Student Performance, and Growth

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

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Paper Authors


Michelle Marincel Payne Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Michelle Marincel Payne is an assistant professor in the Civil Engineering Department at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She will earn her Ph.D. this year in environmental engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She completed her M.S. in environmental engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology, and her B.S. in nuclear engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla. Michelle is interested in developing opportunities for undergraduate students to learn through research, and in developing active and place-based teaching methods for environmental engineering courses.

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Wayne T. Padgett Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Wayne T. Padgett is a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He has been teaching signal processing and related courses there for 21 years. He received his B.E.E. from Auburn University in 1989 and his Ph.D. from Georgia Tech in 1994. He has specialized in fixed-point algorithm design and education, and has a special interest in hands-on learning. He has a variety of industrial experiences from consulting, summer, and sabbatical positions.

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Andrew R. Mech Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Our students are becoming more interested in developing skills that allow them to be global engineers. In addition, some faculty have personal desires to make a difference in developing countries and see such opportunities as beneficial to the growth of their students. Presently, organizations such as Engineers Without Borders (EWB) provide opportunities to undergraduates. However, many students are unaware of these or are busy with classwork or are building their resumes in other ways. The addition of an elective course focused on such work can open these opportunities to all students.

To address this need, an Appropriate Technology course was designed to explore both the technical and humanitarian prowess necessary to positively increase quality of life and promote innovation in the developing world. Our goal was to prepare students to effectively participate in humanitarian work in developing countries.

The course was designed to encompass the topics of most urgency in developing countries including water treatment and infrastructure, sanitation and energy. The course was taught by three faculty members and a consulting engineer. The expertise of the faculty spanned civil and environmental engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. In addition, each faculty member had some limited amount of experience overseas. The consulting engineer had extensive experience with EWB teams and in developing engineering solutions worldwide.

The concept of “Do No Harm” was woven throughout the course by exposing students to international case studies. One class per week was dedicated to considering success of humanitarian engineering projects and the unfortunate frequency of failed – though well-intended – projects. Assignments forced the students to reflect upon positives and negatives and incorporate the best in their plans. Additionally, the students were challenged to develop a design and prototype to transport water from a creek on campus considering appropriateness and sustainability in their designs.

We measured our effectiveness in teaching the “Do No Harm” concept and engineering in the context of the developing world. We evaluated our success using evaluations and course surveys. We were particularly interested in gauging changes in students’ perceptions about the impact engineers can have in working with developing communities. The outcomes from our experience and assessment can serve as a reference to other instructors considering incorporating appropriate technology into new or existing courses to suit student, instructor and institute interests.

Marincel Payne, M., & Padgett, W. T., & Mech, A. R. (2016, June), Insights Gained from the First Teaching of a Multidisciplinary Appropriate Technology Course Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27314

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