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Material Testing as an Opportunity for International Collaboration and Undergraduate Research

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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

Materials Division Technical Session 2

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James B. Pocock U.S. Air Force Academy

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James Pocock is a professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the United States Air Force Academy. He spent the 2016-2017 academic year on sabbatical with Engineering Ministries International as a research specialist in their Uganda field office. His paper is based on some of his research collaborations during his sabbatical.

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Anthony Barrett U.S. Air Force Academy

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Lt Col Barrett is the Deputy Department Head and Senior Military Faculty in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the United States Air Force Academy. With a focus in structures, he received a BS in Civil Engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1996, a MS in Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois in 2000, and a PhD in Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech in 2006.

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This paper considers material testing of African wood species, performed by an engineering school in the U.S. on behalf of an international non-government organization (NGO), as research conducted partially by undergraduate students. The material testing program yielded useful information in itself, but the innovative method of international collaboration provides an example for educational institutions and NGOs of sharing resources for common benefits. Engineering Ministries International Uganda (EMI) provides design and construction management services to Christian charities throughout East Africa. Their structural engineers have been using North American timber standards to estimate the strength of similar African wood species, since little published information on the strength of locally-sourced African woods is available. Through the connection of the lead author’s involvement with EMI during a recent sabbatical, EMI sent samples of cypress, eucalyptus, musizi and pine to the U.S. Air Force Academy’s (USAFA) Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering for testing. Although the number of wood samples tested was small, the results provided EMI more confidence about the actual strength of these wood species used in East African construction, and are presented in this paper. The project also provided opportunities for undergraduate engineering students at USAFA and an EMI intern from Auburn University to participate in meaningful research. More collaboration is possible as Uganda Martyr’s University (UMU) Faculty of the Built Environment considers involving its facilities and undergraduate students in continued testing. The testing results proved valuable to EMI, and the students involved gained experience setting up testing procedures and apparatus, conducting tests, recording data, and analyzing results. This unique approach of connecting North American and African universities, NGOs and undergraduate students required almost no funding and could be adopted by other similar organizations to simultaneously facilitate academic research and provide a valuable service not locally available. Many NGOs operating throughout the developing world would be grateful for such technical assistance. University engineering programs could provide this kind of testing and analysis as an opportunity for meaningful research. The level of complexity in such investigations can be appropriate for undergraduate participation with faculty guidance. Students are often drawn to engineering by a desire to benefit mankind. For example, faculty and undergraduate students at the Colorado School of Mines are helping EMI to evaluate the feasibility of small-scale solar-powered UV water disinfection systems. The authors assert that students are motivated to take part in research that helps people in developing countries improve the quality of their lives.

Pocock, J. B., & Barrett, A. (2017, June), Material Testing as an Opportunity for International Collaboration and Undergraduate Research Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28654

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