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Lessons from Senior Design and a Shifting Interpretation of Appropriate Technology

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Engineering Physics Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

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Paper Authors


Greg S Mowry University of St. Thomas

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Dr. Mowry was raised in Iowa and is currently resides in Minnesota. He earned a BS and MS in Metallurgical Engineering from Iowa State University. While working Dr. Mowry continued his education through a non-thesis MSEE degree program at Stanford University that focused on analog electronics and micro-magnetics. Later, while leading the advanced recording head design teams at Seagate Technology, he earned his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Physics from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Mowry spent 25 years in corporate America as an inventor, team builder, R&D scientist, and engineer. His work focused on Nano-technology (both design and processing), materials engineering, micromagnetics, laser optics, and biomedical engineering. Dr. Mowry is also an entrepreneur with experience in several technical startups. He is named on 40 patents along with multiple publications in four different technical fields. In 2003 Dr. Mowry joined the School of Engineering at the University of St. Thomas. He teaches ME, EE, and Physics courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. He is the Director of the MSEE program, which has a power emphasis, and the Director of REAL – the Renewable Energy and Alternatives Laboratory. He is the recent recipient of a major $2.1M microgrid research project from the Xcel Energy Renewable Development Fund. Dr. Mowry’s research interests vary widely. His current research is focused on reliable, robust, and economic microgrids, alternative energy systems, power electronics, graphene, and biofuels. Microgrids have a wide variety of commercial and humanitarian applications. Humanitarian microgrid projects require non-traditional design approaches since their operation requires minimal human intervention and maintenance. Furthermore, users typically become dependent on the reliable operation of these systems hence premature failures can have serious negative consequences.

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Camille M George University of St. Thomas Orcid 16x16

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Camille M. George is the Associate Vice Provost for Global and Local Engagement at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN (USA) and an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering in the School of Engineering. Camille George has two Bachelor’s degrees, one in Liberal Arts from the University of Chicago, and one in Fluids Engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago, a M.S. and a Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Minnesota, respectively. Currently, she is interested in global sustainability and engineering for the developing world. Dr. George has worked on projects in the Caribbean and in West Africa. Her projects combine her expertise in thermodynamics and heat transfer with the preservation of food, the cooling of space in hot dry climates, and empowering women's cooperatives to better manage their natural resources.

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Undergraduate engineering programs in the United States require an engineering design experience as part of the ABET accreditation process. The ABET ‘Definition of Design’ emphasizes the design process, modeling, mathematics, economics, and teams (to name a few).

In this paper we describe how engineering-for-society and the participatory-design-process is integrated into our senior design program. Two ongoing projects, the ‘Mali Sorghum Project’ and the ‘Ethiopian Injera Project’ are used to illustrate how the engineering requirements, issues, constraints, cultural aspects, and challenges are addressed in this integration process.

The ‘Mali Sorghum Project’ is a joint project with the ‘International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics’ where a new sorghum hybrid is being introduced to farmers in Mali. The hybrid is a dual-use crop producing an abundance of both sorghum juice and sorghum seeds both which can be used by Malian farmers and sold. There are several engineering challenges that must be solved in order for Malian farmers to realize the benefits of this hybrid which include energy-use and process development. The project, team, participatory-design, ownership, constraints, economics, limitations, and future of this project will be addressed in the context of senior design.

In the ‘Ethiopian Injera Project’ an energy-efficient and cost-effective Injera cooker is being developed for production and sale in Ethiopia to replacement the existing energy-inefficient cooker and freeing up to 70% of the Ethiopian grid-power for other uses. The project, team, participatory-design, ownership, constraints, economics, limitations, and future of this project will also be addressed in the context of senior design.

Finally, we conclude with a discussion on how we are attempting to transform the engineering educational process by engineering-for-society, comprehensive university direction, issues, aspects of on-site partners, economics, sustainability, and the need for comprehensive programs beyond senior design.

Mowry, G. S., & George, C. M. (2016, June), Lessons from Senior Design and a Shifting Interpretation of Appropriate Technology Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25547

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