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Reflections On Fifteen Years Of Service Learning Projects In Thailand

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Distance & Service Learning, K-12, Web & Work-Based Projects

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1065.1 - 10.1065.9



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Paper Authors

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Richard Vaz

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Reflections on Fifteen Years of Service-Learning Projects in Thailand Richard Vaz Worcester Polytechnic Institute


I. Introduction

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) provides international experiences for over 50% of its engineering students, more than any other US-based university. As part of its international offerings, WPI has since 1989 been sending mixed teams of engineering, science, and management students to Bangkok to complete 8-week interdisciplinary projects. These projects connect science or technology to social issues and human need, and have been sponsored by Thai nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and universities, as well as by international organizations. The students are accompanied by WPI faculty members who serve as residential project advisors and work closely with the student teams.

Whether in Bangkok or in rural Thai villages, the projects are designed to achieve a broad set of learning outcomes associated with critical thinking and integrative problem solving, written and oral professional communication, teamwork, cross-cultural abilities, and the role of technology in the developing world. About 90 projects had been completed by more than 275 WPI students in Thailand as of early 2005. The faculty directors and local coordinators of the program have developed a network of project sponsor contacts, and have come to understand what types of project opportunities are most likely to lead to the desired learning experience for the students.

This paper will describe the WPI Bangkok Project Center operation and history. Projects in the areas of energy, the environment, sustainable agriculture, capacity building, and community development will be presented as examples. Some of the key elements in developing and maintaining relationships, selecting project topics, and preparing and guiding students through the learning experience will be discussed, in order to illustrate how other universities might provide more international service-learning experiences for engineering students

II. An Overview of WPI and its Student Project Programs

As part of their BS degree requirements, all WPI undergraduates must complete three significant projects, including a third-year interdisciplinary research project called the "Interactive Qualifying Project", or IQP. The IQP is not directly related to the students' major areas of study. Instead, by working on multidisciplinary teams to address problems related to technology, society, and human needs, students come to understand how their careers in technology will impact, and be affected by, societal structures and values. A central learning outcome of this project is an understanding of the social and cultural contexts of technology and science. The Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Vaz, R. (2005, June), Reflections On Fifteen Years Of Service Learning Projects In Thailand Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15505

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