June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Design in Engineering Education
14.790.1 - 14.790.12
International Service Learning Projects for Senior Capstone Projects
Service learning is being adopted in many engineering programs at various course levels. International service learning experiences can provide senior level engineering students with opportunities to practice the required skills of engineering graduates as detailed by the ABET Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs. Bridges to Prosperity is a non-profit organization that builds footbridges in rural third world communities. These design build footbridge projects require a full year for fundraising, site visit, design and construction, and provide engineering students an opportunity to practice their knowledge of globalization, sustainability, engineering design, teamwork, and leadership. A team of students from the University of Iowa completed the design and construction of a footbridge in Peru in the spring of 2008. The planning, implementation and results of this service learning project are examined.
Starting in 2006, a group of undergraduate civil engineering students from the University of Iowa undertook a service learning project to design and construct a footbridge as an augmented senior design project, satisfying a component of the department’s required curriculum. The students were guided by the non-profit organization Bridges to Prosperity (B2P), based out of Yorktown, Virginia. Bridges to Prosperity is a volunteer based charity committed to empowering the impoverished in rural communities around the world through footbridge building and infrastructure capacitation programs.
B2P was established in 2001 by Ken Frantz. He was inspired by a photo in National Geographic Magazine of a broken bridge along the Blue Nile. Frantz traveled to Ethiopia to help repair the span. The experience of rebuilding the broken bridge and seeing first-hand the project’s impact encouraged Frantz to continue. A simple footbridge can provide opportunities for remote communities through access to schools, clinics, jobs and markets. What started as a single bridge has expanded beyond building individual footbridges to include training communities, the development of an online library of sustainable standardized footbridge methods and designs, and providing volunteer field opportunities for corporate and academic teams, as well as individuals.1
Bridges to Prosperity matches academic teams with rural economically disadvantaged international communities to build pedestrian footbridges. These projects can be completed in one academic year and within an $18,000 budget, including both construction and travel costs. A typical project requires two trips in-country, the first of which sets the framework for the project. Community leaders are asked to form a Bridge Committee, allowing the academic team to negotiate a community participation agreement and establish a communication link. Great care is taken to ensure community buy-in to the project. The first trip also is used to complete a site-survey analysis used to design the bridge. A second trip, typically in late spring or early summer is taken to complete the construction of the footbridge. Although the construction takes
Reichle, S., & Bang, A., & Considine, C. (2009, June), International Service Learning Projects For Senior Capstone Projects Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5593
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