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Preparing Engineers for Service

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Lessons Learned through Community Engagement of Engineering Students

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1058.1 - 25.1058.13



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Paper Authors


Michael Robert Foster George Fox University

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Michael Foster received a B.S. in engineering from Messiah College and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from Drexel University. He is currently an Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering at George Fox University. His research interests include control systems education and thermal/fluid science applications.

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Gary E. Spivey George Fox University

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Gary Spivey received his B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Arizona in 1988 and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from University of Maryland, College Park, in 1997 and 2001, respectively. From 1988 until 1999, he served as an electronic engineer with the National Security Agency, chiefly as a special-purpose-computer and application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) designer. During this time, he also served as a site-support engineer for the U.S. Navy Security Group Activity station, formerly located in Edzell, Scotland. From 1999 until joining the George Fox University faculty in 2003, he was a Senior Member of the technical staff at Rincon Research Corporation, where his primary focus was FPGA development for DSP applications.

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Preparing Engineers for ServiceABC University has a strong service mentality. As the result of the university’s “Serve Day” atthe STATE School for the Blind, faculty members developed a passion to connect engineeringstudents with service opportunities that require a technical solution. In the spring of 2010, theengineering department initiated a course sequence required for all engineering students. Weaffiliated with the EPICS program and utilized much of their course material for documentingthe design process.Students’ initial excitement for the course waned as they began to feel burdened by the largedocumentation requirements; the instructors agreed with their assessment. In this service-learning context, the intention was emphasize service, however academic demands dominated.Because of our hands-on design-and-build curriculum, we felt that our students could performeffectively as engineers without additional “academic” material overhead. Thus, we curtailedmuch of the documentation requirements.When the requirements eased, student passion returned; yet, we soon discovered that with thisexcitement came reduced project performance. Though we taught the design process andengaged students with multiple projects throughout the curriculum, students had not effectivelylearned how to develop project requirements and specifications. We revamped our approach andimplemented a detailed design-cycle template with a weekly assessment form using GoogleApps. As engineers, our students were not enthusiastic about the added documentationrequirements, but they recognize that these processes will enable them to achieve their goal ofproviding service to others.In this paper we detail the development of our course, recounting the various changes in ourapproach. We will discuss how the open-ended nature of service-learning courses provides acontext where students can effectively learn the design process. We suggest that this learning isa prerequisite for effective engineering service. We have discovered that if we want to serve, wemust first learn.

Foster, M. R., & Spivey, G. E. (2012, June), Preparing Engineers for Service Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21815

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