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It's Simply Different There! Studying Abroad to Advance Engineering Problem Solving while Cultivating Engineering Leadership

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

They need more than technical skills!

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Robert Prewitt Penno P.E. University of Dayton


Roger J. Crum University of Dayton

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Roger Crum is Professor of Art History at the University of Dayton. A specialist in Florentine Renaissance art and architecture, Crum has been a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and a Visiting Professor at Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies.

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Eddy M. Rojas University of Dayton

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Dr. Eddy M. Rojas is the Dean of Engineering at the University of Dayton (UD). Before joining UD, he served as Director of the Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). Before joining UNL, Dr. Rojas was a Professor in the Department of Construction Management at the University of Washington (UW), where he was also the Executive Director of the Pacific Northwest Center for Construction Research and Education and the Graduate Program Coordinator. Prior to joining UW, he was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil, Structural, and Environmental Engineering at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). Dr. Rojas holds graduate degrees in civil engineering (M.S. and Ph.D.) and economics (M.A.) from the University of Colorado at Boulder and an undergraduate degree (B.S.) in civil engineering from the University of Costa Rica. Dr. Rojas is also a Professional Engineer registered in the State of Michigan. Throughout his academic career, Dr. Rojas has led numerous research studies in modeling, simulation, and visualization of construction engineering and management processes; engineering education; and construction economics. He has served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator in more than 20 different projects. These studies have been sponsored by government agencies and private sector organizations such as the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Army, the KERN Foundation, the Construction Industry Institute, the New Horizons Foundation, and ELECTRI International. Dr. Rojas has documented and disseminated the results and findings from his research efforts in more than 80 publications in technical refereed journals, technical conference proceedings, and technical reports, and in more than 25 invited lectures and presentations at national and international seminars, symposia, and workshops. He is also the editor of two books in construction productivity and construction project management published by J.Ross Publishing. Dr. Rojas is well known in both academic and professional circles not only through his research and publications, but also by means of his professional activities, including his work as reviewer for the National Science Foundation, Specialty Editor for the ASCE Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, Chair and Technical Committee member in several congresses and conferences, reviewer for technical journals and conferences, and consultant for the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) among other activities.

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The ASEE has increasingly supported education that introduces students to diverse cultural environments. Since 2006, the School of Engineering at the University of Dayton has sponsored a study abroad program in Italy focused on problem solving and leadership development in a cultural context different from the United States. Conducted in Florence, this program has four interrelated objectives: (1) to develop skills in observation, data collection, and analysis, (2) to apply engineering problem solving techniques to “real life” situations, (3) to cultivate an understanding of how a specific culture grapples with technical challenges, and (4) to investigate how different models of leadership improve team building and design solutions in an international environment. The program begins with a “deep dive” familiarization with Florence: students examine the city as it awakens and then explore the site throughout that day until the city sleeps again that night. This focus on the whole city continues throughout the program as students are regularly introduced to the connections between the city’s rich history and cultural patrimony and its present-day engineering challenges in negotiating with that same history and storied heritage. In concert with this cultural/technical perspective, student groups examine historic and contemporary Florence in light of six elements of the city’s infrastructure: water, transportation, waste handling, communication, energy, and housing. Each group is then assigned one of these elements to investigate in depth by identifying a challenge related to that element, collecting data, drawing conclusions, and proposing recommendations for improving that element of the infrastructure. In addition to focusing on Florence, the program conducts comparative visits to sites important to the history of engineering, including Vinci, Pisa, Assisi, and Rome. In these sites, each with its own engineering challenges, students use engineering heuristics and problem solving techniques to provide one-day, intensive “back of the envelope” solutions for challenges posed by that locality. The theme of leadership is interwoven throughout the program with students being introduced to a variety of approaches to this subject both in and beyond the field of engineering. The goal is not only to educate students about different leadership approaches, but to encourage them to adopt, intermingle, and experiment with these approaches throughout the program. Students maintain engineering journals that are shared among peers and reviewed individually for the range of observations, the quality of sketches/engineering diagrams, and the depth of questioning and thinking brought to bear on a particular infrastructure element as well as on the city and its culture in general. Students and their groups are regularly encouraged to pose hypotheses and to test these with observational experiments that contribute to their growing comprehension of engineering realities and possible solutions. Each group gives a presentation on site at the close of the program, an experience by which participants appreciate the breadth of engineering challenges, the range of cultural and historical variables, and the variety of solutions for addressing infrastructure questions in an international context.

Penno, R. P., & Crum, R. J., & Rojas, E. M. (2017, June), It's Simply Different There! Studying Abroad to Advance Engineering Problem Solving while Cultivating Engineering Leadership Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27414

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