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Integration of a Short-term International Humanitarian Engineering Experience into Engineering Undergraduate Studies

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Diversity in Community Engagement Implementation II

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors


Jeremy Smith Australian National University

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Jeremy is a research engineer at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. He has worked on introducing a number of humanitarian engineering and service-learning projects into engineering undergraduate studies at the ANU, covering both international and domestic opportunities. Jeremy has also worked on a number of industry focused research projects in the automotive and aerospace industries.

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Jennifer Patricia Turner Engineers Without Borders Australia


Nick John Brown Engineers Without Borders Australia

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Nick Brown leads the research interests and activities of Engineers Without Borders Australia. Nick is responsible for the development and delivery of an innovative education and research program that creates, builds and disseminates new knowledge in Humanitarian  Engineering. This program engages academics and students from Australia’s  leading universities to develop innovative solutions to humanitarian problems faced by communities  both within Australia and overseas. These projects cover a range of topics, including designing prosthetic hands for less than $5, researching low cost building materials in Cambodia and developing ways to provide cooking fuel and stoves to refugees all around the world.

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Joli Price Engineers Without Borders Australia

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Joli Price is currently the Training Program Coordinator at Engineers Without Borders Australia (EWB) and in this role she coordinates and facilitates the Humanitarian Design Summit program. She has been a long term volunteer with EWB and a participant on a number of humanitarian engineering study tours in Cambodia, India, Israel and China.
Joli completed her B Eng (Civil Engineering) at the University of Melbourne, before going on to work as a water system design engineer for a major engineering consultancy. She also holds an M Phil in Engineering for Sustainable Development from the University of Cambridge.

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Background and Motivation Many of the humanitarian engineering education initiatives in Australia are developed and supported by Engineers Without Borders Australia (EWB). These include the EWB Challenge, an embedded first year coursework program, and the Undergraduate Research Program, providing service-learning projects for later year individual or group work. These represent the extremes of an undergraduate degree, leaving a significant gap in the program for a student interested in humanitarian engineering. A link is required to support student learning on humanitarian engineering between these extremes.

Description and Justification of Methodology To fill this perceived gap, the EWB Humanitarian Design Summit was developed. These are two-week international experiences combining facilitated workshops, cultural experiences and a community visit. This is available to mid-program students to optional take and are design to be a lead into later year service-learning projects. A range of curriculum methods have been used by universities to incorporate the experience into students’ formal program including work experience, research projects and a for-credit course.

Results and Data Analysis The Design Summits commenced at the start of 2015. Summits have been conducted to Cambodia and India, with students from 24 universities taking part. The approaches to incorporating the Summit into programs has created different outcomes, with those more tightly integrated into a students’ program providing greater opportunities for student learning. A number of technology concepts and prototypes have been developed during community visits, several of which have been left for community partners to use. Students on follow-up Summits 6-months later have been able to observe if any of these are still in use and found a small number have had further development and use after development.

Conclusions and Significance The Summit is providing opportunities for students to engage in a scaffolded community based humanitarian engineering experience. Approaches and learnings are being shared across Australian universities to contribute to the development of an Australian humanitarian engineering program.

Smith, J., & Turner, J. P., & Brown, N. J., & Price, J. (2016, June), Integration of a Short-term International Humanitarian Engineering Experience into Engineering Undergraduate Studies Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25418

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