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Multidisciplinary Design Of Student Projects In Developing Countries

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Experiential and Service Learning

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.913.1 - 13.913.14



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Paper Authors


Jim Chamberlain Clemson University

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Jim F. Chamberlain is a Ph.D. student at Clemson University in Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences. He received his M.S. in
Environmental Systems Engineering from Clemson in 1994 and has worked as an environmental consultant for 12 years. His research interests are in the environmental impacts of growing monocultural switchgrass as a
biofuel. Jim is a registered professional engineer and a member of the
American Society for Engineering Education.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


The challenge with EWB-USA project design has been to reach the proper balance of student-led creativity and learning, collection of data, and adequate expert review. Collection of data in a developing country has logistical barriers that are sometimes frustrating. Furthermore, international travel is expensive, and much of the funds raised go directly into getting the students there. Therefore, collection of data on the preliminary site assessment trip is critical and must be thoroughly planned. This paper explores the process and initial results of using an International Project Development (IPD) flowchart developed by the team to map out tasks associated with four project modules requested by a local NGO (the client) in the Bajo Lempe region of El Salvador. La Coordinadora (LC) is a peasant-run cooperative of eighty-six (86) villages that is seeking to better the lives of their people. The projects requested by the LC have been separated into four modules for the project team: • solar energy - solar panels for backup power to office computers and equipment • wind energy – assessment of wind resources for organic farming irrigation and a water pumping station • hydraulics - water distribution system from a cooperative water treatment plant to additional villages on the peninsula, and • sustainable architecture – green building design and layout for a rural tourism project. Each of these technical modules was approached in the same manner using the IPD flowchart. Students signed up to join a module design team based on their degree specialty and/or their interest. The project flowchart includes initial brainstorming by the larger project team, preliminary design by the smaller module design team, a presentation of the initial design to the larger group with a group discussion, a group meeting with an “expert” to get his/her comments on the initial design, revision of the design, brainstorming by the larger group on sustainability issues, and a compilation of data gaps to be collected by the student travel team on the site assessment trip. In essence, the process is an iterative 3-way dialogue between the large group (10-15 students), the module design group (2-4 students), and a recognized expert. The process encourages deep learning as students actively engage in creative conceptualizing, teaching each other from general engineering principles and from their own disciplines, and interaction with a professional. Even though only a subset of the students will travel to the host country, all of the students on the project team have a sense of being involved with the site assessment planning and are invested in the project from the point of view of their chosen discipline. The IPD adventure is one that gives the student an actual engineering experience while engaging his/her passion for the social good.

Chamberlain, J. (2008, June), Multidisciplinary Design Of Student Projects In Developing Countries Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3153

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