Columbus , Ohio
June 28, 2017
June 28, 2017
June 28, 2017
Main Forum (Podium Presentation)
Virginia Tech has seen unprecedented growth in enrollment in the Mechanical Engineering program since 2011, with the senior class growing from 270 students in 2011 to 418 for the 2016-2017 academic year. The capstone design class traditionally relied on faculty advisors to sponsor projects, but that capacity was exceeded with the increased enrollment and so two additional project options were created: an industry-sponsored option and a global humanitarian project option. Since 2013, 101 students have participated in the global humanitarian option, working on 16 projects in four countries. This paper discusses the class structure and how these international projects have been managed with in-country partners to allow students to travel and demonstrate prototype concepts with targeted end-users.
The projects have covered a range of topics of interest in the developing world, including medical devices, water and sanitation and agriculture. In all cases, partnerships were established with subject matter experts on campus who had prior experience in the target countries. This facilitated contacts and allowed students to start working with international partners on the first day of class.
In order to deliver a successful, operating design, three main topic areas are addressed with the student teams: design intent, adoption/social acceptance and local manufacturing / customer support. The design intent usually implies a “simple but elegant” system with minimal moving parts that have intuitive function. Social acceptance of a designed system cannot be definitively quantified, however through focus group meetings and feedback from prototype demonstrations it is possible to learn how a designed system integrates into a community of users. Finally, designs that can be locally manufactured, maintained and supported serve many positive purposes such as minimizing the “valley of death,” which commonly ends new technology development at the product introduction.
Results of three exemplary projects are given: a grass chopping system to make silage in Senegal, an I.V. drip regulation system for pediatric care in Malawi, and a latrine pit desludging system also designed for use in Malawi. In each case, the projects are described from initial design concept to demonstration in-country with corrections noted as the course evolved over a four-year period.
A funding model for international travel for students is addressed. Unlike study abroad programs which place the burden of travel expenses on the student, Virginia Tech has been successful in providing funding for one or two students from each project team to make an international trip for prototype demonstration. This funding model relies on a combination of corporate sponsorship, university support and grant funding. An assessment of learning outcomes for the students is provided along with an assessment of product success/failure.
Kochersberger, K., & Taylor, A. R., & Kappes, C. (2017, June), International Humanitarian Capstone Design Project Option: a Model for Success Paper presented at 2017 ASEE International Forum, Columbus , Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/29288
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