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Multidisciplinary Service Learning In Guatemala Course Description And Lessons Learned

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Sustainability, Service Learning, and Entreprenuership

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.896.1 - 15.896.11



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Paper Authors


Steven Northrup Western New England College

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Steve Northrup is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Western New England College, Springfield Massachusetts. He earned a B.S.E.E. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and an M.S.E.E. and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. He worked for several years designing automotive electronics and test equipment for electronics manufacturing. His current work focuses on multidisciplinary engineering, embedded controls, control systems for alternative energy applications, and digital signal processing.

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

Multidisciplinary Service Learning in Guatemala Course Description and Lessons Learned


Multidisciplinary experiential and service learning courses offer opportunities for students from multiple and disparate backgrounds to work together and learn from the experience, the faculty, and each other. This paper describes a multidisciplinary service learning course in which students from business, engineering, and liberal arts majors participate. Faculty from business and engineering backgrounds co-teach the course. The semester-long course, which has been conducted for several years, culminates in a two-week service learning trip to Guatemala. During past courses, students have worked in teams on projects including hospital clinic construction and service, coffee cooperative construction, reforestation, potable water delivery systems, alternative energy study, surveying for water piping projects, and research of water delivery project financial records. During the two-week trip to Guatemala, students experience learning from service projects, cultural exposure, and historical presentations provided by Mayan and Ladino hosts.

Because the course has been conducted for several years and has been revised and improved over time, the paper discusses course design and implementation, delivery of integrated multidisciplinary projects, student feedback, lessons learned, and course improvements.


Historically engineering programs have utilized classroom teaching with traditional textbook- based learning over hands-on learning approaches. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recently published a study showing that 6 American Universities continue “widespread emphasis on textbook-centric theory over hands-on practice”1,2. Brakora et. al. state that this approach discourages many students and leaves them unprepared for real- world problems2. Fortunately ABET accreditation requirements are beginning to affect changes in the teaching and learning paradigms leading to more emphasis on hands-on learning. Three of the criterion 3 requirements are having significant impact on engineering education. First, the students‟ ability “to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability”3; second, the emphasis on multidisciplinary teamwork; and third, students‟ understanding of the “impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context”3. The confluence of these three accreditation program outcomes has been a dramatic increase in the number of engineering programs incorporating service learning projects in engineering education.

In the past decade, many engineering programs have embarked on service learning projects to enhance the learning experience of undergraduate students. Among these projects, many engineering programs have incorporated international service projects4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11.. In his Ph.D. dissertation regarding humanitarian aspects engineering in the engineering curriculum, Vandersteen provides and eloquent history of the evolution of engineering education discussing

Northrup, S. (2010, June), Multidisciplinary Service Learning In Guatemala Course Description And Lessons Learned Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16497

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