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On Integrating Appropriate Technology Responsive to Community Capabilities: A Case Study from Haiti

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Conference

2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Ethics and Technology

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count

17

Page Numbers

25.991.1 - 25.991.17

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/21748

Download Count

22

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Paper Authors

biography

William Joseph Frey University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez

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William Frey teaches business, computer, and engineering ethics at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez. For several years, he directed the university's Center for Ethics in the Professions. His interests, besides practical and professional ethics, include moral pedagogy and moral psychology. He is active in the Society for Ethics Across the Curriculum and the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics and has presented and participated in workshops at ASEE since 2000. He is also a Co-investigator on the project Graduate Research and Education for Appropriate Technology: Inspiring Direct Engagement and Agency (GREAT IDEA).

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Christopher Papadopoulos University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

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Christopher Papadopoulos is an Assistant Professor in the Department of General Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez (UPRM). He earned B.S. degrees in Civil Engineering and Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University (1993) and a Ph.D. in Theoretical & Applied Mechanics at Cornell University (1999). Prior to coming to UPRM, Papadopoulos served on the faculty in the Department of Civil Engineering & Mechanics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM).

Papadopoulos has diverse research and teaching interests in structural mechanics, biomechanics, engineering ethics, and engineering education. He is PI of the project Graduate Research and Education for Appropriate Technology: Inspiring Direct Engagement and Agency (GREAT IDEA) that supports and prepares graduate researchers to pursue research and development activities that address issues of developing communities. Papadopoulos is also the Secretary of the ASEE Mechanics Division and serves on numerous committees at UPRM that relate to undergraduate and graduate education.

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Marcel J. Castro-Sitiriche University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez

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Marcel J. Castro-Sitiriche is Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez (Recinto Universitario de Mayagüez). His research efforts include academic, educational, and service activities. Some of the research areas of interest include appropriate technology, engineering education, power electronics, computational intelligence, electric motor drives, and renewable energy systems. One of the current research projects combine most of the research interests and is based in the concept of appropriate technology. The project title is Graduate Research and Education for Appropriate Technology: Inspiring Direct Engagement and Agency (GREAT IDEA).

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Fatima Zevallos University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez

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Fatima Zevallos is a senior in geology at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, where she is also employed as a geophysical data Student Analyst at the Puerto Rico Seismic Network. She is currently employed as an undergraduate Research Assistant with the Graduate Research and Education for Appropriate Technology: Inspiring Direct Engagement and Agency (GREAT IDEA) project. Zevallos is a native of Port au Prince, Haiti, and is fluent in Haitian Creole, French, English, and Spanish. She plans to return back to her hometown to share and apply her scientific knowledge in seismology.

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Denisse Echevarria University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez

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Denisse Echevarria is a junior in mechanical engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez. Echevarria is currently employed as an Undergraduate Research Assistant with the Graduate Research and Education for Appropriate Technology: Inspiring Direct Engagement and Agency (GREAT IDEA) project. She is generally interested in how engineers can make a difference to cause positive social change, and she is particularly interested in studying mechanical aspects of wind turbine construction.

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Abstract

On Integrating Appropriate Technology in Developing Communities A Case Study from HaitiDuring past decades, many efforts have been made to apply engineering to address problems ofdeveloping communities. Many of these efforts are identified with groups such as EngineersWithout Borders, Engineers for a Sustainable World, and the IEEE Society for SocialImplications of Technology.Recent work has examined this “engineering to help” movement (Lucena, 2010), anddesignations such as “peace engineering” (Vesilind, 2005) and “humanitarian engineering”(Mitcham & Muñoz, 2010) now represent recognized fields of inquiry and practice. Severalauthors have framed these efforts within a context of engineering ethics, and within thisframework, incorporate perspectives of social justice (e.g., Riley, 2008; Baillie & Catalano,2009).One recurrent theme from these commentaries is the essential need to involve local communitiesas true partners, and not as passive recipients (Lucena, 2010). When genuinely undertaken, thisact of partnering has both moral and practical implications. It is a matter of both respect andpracticality, for example, to recognize the community’s intrinsic knowledge in order to developsystems that will be accepted and sustained. Furthermore, as many have observed (e.g., Easterly,2006), development projects that have insisted on paternalistic, top-down implementations havea long history of failure. This exposes the fallacy of viewing development projects merely as“expert”-driven technical fixes and underscores the reality of the underlying social-technicalsystem. In this way, we extend the concept of appropriate technology to cover design anddevelopment of useful technologies that properly involve the local community.With this background in mind, we describe our work in a small village in Haiti that began inNovember 2010. Among other activities, this project currently involves planning a new micro-hydroelectric plant, developing new construction techniques using soil reinforced by local plantfibers, and improving educational materials.Within our context of appropriate technology, we realized very early that our role is not only toserve as technical advisors – though that is an important part – but also, equally, we must alsoserve as facilitators of the community’s own “philosophy of technology” conversation. Forexample, in our conversation with village leaders regarding their desire to expand the localelectrical grid, it became clear that their principal desire was consumerist in nature. While weentirely respect and recognize their equal right to the very resources that we take for granted, wenevertheless feel compelled to introduce other dimensions into the conversation, such asupsetting standing power or political relations, environmental impacts, and the need to supportindustry that is necessary for a sustainable economy. To advance this conversation, our projectwill disseminate a community survey in October 2011 that will collect information regardingattitudes of members of the community (not only from the leaders). With this information, wehope to gain deeper insight into the landscape of the community stakeholders and their interests(cf. Baillie et al., 2010).As we are also realizing, such engagement raises ethical issues that are analogous to, but distinctfrom, traditional issues addressed in common treatments of engineering and research ethics. Wetherefore explore these issues further here. For example, what constitutes informed consent forsuch a survey? What privacy issues arise, and do they take a different form in this context?What are the reactions of the community members when presented with the classical parametersof participation in human subject research? What tensions arise between respecting the wishesof the community versus remaining true to practices and standards that we believe are necessaryand just?This paper will provide findings on these issues based on visits in March 2010, October 2011,and a future trip planned for the Spring of 2012. The draft paper, final paper, and presentationwill be updated accordingly.Authors’ Note: we are open to presenting this paper in any joint sessions that the EngineeringEthics Division might arrange with the Liberal Education/Engineering & Society Division.References CitedBaillie, C. and G. Catalano. Engineering and Society: Working Towards Social Justice, Parts I-III, Morgan & Claypool, 2009.Baillie, C., E. Feinblatt, T. Thamae, and E. Berrington. Needs and Feasibility: A Guide forEngineers in Community Projects --- The Case of Waste for Life, Morgan & Claypool, 2010.Easterly, W. The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done soMuch Ill and so Little Good. New York, The Penguin Press, 2006.Lucena, J., J. Schneider, and J.A. Leydens. Engineering and Sustainable CommunityDevelopment, Morgan & Claypool, 2010.Mitcham, C. and D. Muñoz. Humanitarian Engineering, Morgan & Claypool, 2010.Riley, D. Engineering and Social Justice, Morgan & Claypool, 2008.Vesilind, A. Peace Engineering: When Personal Values and Engineering Careers Converge,Lakeshore Press, 2005.

Frey, W. J., & Papadopoulos, C., & Castro-Sitiriche, M. J., & Zevallos, F., & Echevarria, D. (2012, June), On Integrating Appropriate Technology Responsive to Community Capabilities: A Case Study from Haiti Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/21748

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: © 2012 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