Asee peer logo

Laying the Foundations of a Learning Platform for Humanitarian Engineering: Methodological Approach and Results

Download Paper |


2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Understanding the Discipline of Engineering

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Andrea Mazzurco University of Queensland Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Andrea Mazzurco is currently an Educational Researcher at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. He is part of the Enhancing Student Experience team and, in this role, is tasked to work with the engineering, architecture, and IT faculty to enhance learning and teaching in classroom and across programs. He earned his PhD at Purdue University in Engineering Education and also has a M.S. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. His research interests include Humanitarian Engineering, social justice in engineering education, global engineering education, professional engineering practice, and curriculum design.

visit author page


Brent K. Jesiek Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

visit author page

Dr. Brent K. Jesiek is an Associate Professor in the Schools of Engineering Education and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. He also leads the Global Engineering Education Collaboratory (GEEC) research group, and is the recipient of an NSF CAREER award to study boundary-spanning roles and competencies among early career engineers. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Michigan Tech and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from Virginia Tech. Dr. Jesiek draws on expertise from engineering, computing, and the social sciences to advance understanding of geographic, disciplinary, and historical variations in engineering education and practice.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Humanitarian Engineering (HE) is an interdisciplinary field that is rapidly emerging worldwide. Many higher education institutions are including HE and similar courses in the engineering curriculum, while Engineers Without Borders (EWB) counts more than 40 national chapters across the globe. In the U.S., HE, service-learning, community engagement, and similar programs are gaining popularity because they can enable development of both technical and professional skills among engineering students while potentially addressing multiple ABET accreditation criteria However, the cultural, social, and political differences among communities and engineers often add degrees of difficulty that the typical engineering problem solving approach often cannot properly address. Consequently, engineers must utilize problem framing and solving methods that meet the twofold requirements of involving community members at each stage of a project and integrating communities’ needs, desires, assets, cultures, social norms, and politics in the proposed solutions. Engineers have historically borrowed methods from other disciplines, including design and anthropology, as the HE field lacks a well-established and coherent repertoire of field-tested methods that are readily accessible by less-experienced humanitarian engineers. This research paper reports on the study design for a research project that had the goal of laying the foundations of a learning platform for humanitarian engineering. The research questions that guided this research project were: 1) What are the key characteristics of specific design methods that have been used/proposed in the HE and related literature?, and 2) What are other conditions (e.g., philosophical commitments, culture of the community, engineers’ skills, and others) that are not specific to any design stage, but may facilitate meaningful community participation? In this paper, we focus especially on the methodological approach used to conduct this studty. First discuss the Scholarship of Integration (SoI) and how it was applied in this study to serve as the theoretical framework. We then discuss the two sequential but integrated phases of the research project. The first phase focused on reviewing the existing literature, generating a theoretical framework to classify methods, and creating an elicitation prompt that was used in the interview prompt. The second phase leveraged Radically Transparent Interviews (RTI) with experienced humanitarians to gather cases and insights related to the practice of humanitarian engineering. Finally, we discuss how we integrated findings from the two phases and present sample “information sheets” for two design methods to illustrate how findings from both phases of the study were integrated and presented in an accessible manner for students and other HE practitioners. The methodological approach described in this study is not limited to humanitarian engineering design, but also extends to other research projects that aim to produce readily useful resources. For instance, researchers investigating experiences of traditional engineering faculty transitioning to engineering education research could use our approach to produce vignettes or narratives from the interviews for training purposes. Consequently, the audience for this paper includes researchers interested in humanitarian engineering, as well as those interested in strategies to translate research findings into practice.

Mazzurco, A., & Jesiek, B. K. (2017, June), Laying the Foundations of a Learning Platform for Humanitarian Engineering: Methodological Approach and Results Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28606

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015