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International Design Project Experiences: Assessing The Short Term Impact On Students

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Preparing Engineering Students for International Practice

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Page Count


Page Numbers

13.791.1 - 13.791.15



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Paper Authors

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John Aidoo Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Shannon Sexton Rose Hulman Institute of Technology

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James Hanson Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Kevin Sutterer Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Robert Houghtalen Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

International Design Project Experiences: Assessing the Short- term Impact on Students


In 2005, the Department of Civil Engineering at Rose Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT) decided to incorporate an international component into its 18 year old capstone senior design projects. The advantages of international experiences for engineering students are well documented:

• Students have the opportunity to partner with local or international organizations. • Students get exposed to international design codes and standards. • Students get to experience the global working environment.

These are just a few of the benefits associated with international projects. However getting involved in foreign projects is not without its problems:

• Students face challenges associated with distance (e.g., site visits). • Students have to deal with the different cultural and educational environments. • Students experience difficulty obtaining necessary data.

Despite the associated challenges, the benefits to the students are seen as immediate and profound. To date, there is little or no information on assessing the short and long-term benefits of such projects. In 2006-2007 academic year, five Rose-Hulman civil engineering students designed an agricultural training facility in Ghana as part of their capstone design project. At the end of the project, in the summer of 2007, the student team had the invaluable experience of visiting Ghana. While in Ghana, they presented their final design report to both the local engineer as well as the local community; the primary beneficiaries of the project. Additionally, the student team visited a university in Ghana to explore the feasibility of collaborating with students on potential senior design projects. Excursions were organized as part of the trip to expand students’ cultural awareness.

Prior to their visit, the Civil Engineering Department and the Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment (IRPA) of RHIT developed and administered three assessment instruments in order to collect data on the short term impact of international design projects on student experiences. These instruments included a pre-trip survey, a student focus group, and daily student journals. This paper discusses the results of the data collected during this assessment process, suggestions for future improvement of the experience, and the need to assess the long-term benefits of student experiences.


Each summer, fifteen to twenty corporate or governmental sponsors submit proposals for design projects to the Civil Engineering (CE) Department at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT). In August each student ranks the projects, and assignments are made to maximize student preferences. Each design team includes four to five seniors, a faculty coach, the client,

Aidoo, J., & Sexton, S., & Hanson, J., & Sutterer, K., & Houghtalen, R. (2008, June), International Design Project Experiences: Assessing The Short Term Impact On Students Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4033

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