Asee peer logo

Seeking Relevancy, Building Excellence: Service-learning in the SEECS Program

Download Paper |


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

Relevance of and Models for Community Engagement in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1147.1 - 25.1147.23



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Karinna M. Vernaza Gannon University

visit author page

Karinna Vernaza joined Gannon University in 2003, and she is currently an Associate Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department. She earned her Ph.D. and M.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Notre Dame. Her B.S. is in Marine Systems Engineering from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Her primary teaching responsibilities are in the solid mechanics and materials areas. She was awarded the 2012 ASEE NCS Outstanding Teacher Award. Vernaza consults for GE Transportation and does research in the area of alternative fuels (biodiesel), engineering education (active learning techniques), and high-strain deformation of materials. She is currently a Co-PI in an NSF S-STEM and ADVANCE-PAID grants. She is actively involved in outreach activities that introduce middle school students to engineering.

visit author page

author page

Theresa M. Vitolo Gannon University

author page

Barry J. Brinkman Gannon University

author page

Scott Steinbrink Gannon University

Download Paper |


Seeking Relevancy, Building Excellence: Service Learning in the SEECS Program The Scholars for Excellence in Engineering and Computer Science (SEECS) programinitiated its first cohort of 20 students in fall 2009. Funded through an NSF S-STEM grant, theinterdisciplinary, multi-year, mixed academic-level offering awarded scholarships to studentsbased on academic merit and financial need. SEECS is an opportunity for students in the majorsof computer science, electrical and computer engineering, environmental engineering,information systems, mechanical engineering, and software engineering at Gannon University,Erie, PA, in the School of Engineering and Computer Science. The goals of the scholarshipprogram are (1) to increase the number of academically talented, but financially disadvantagedstudents in the stated majors, (2) to assist students to be successful in their undergraduateeducation, and (3) to foster professional development for careers or graduate education. Thesegoals are realized through the students’ shared interactions within the SEECS seminar. Students awarded SEECS scholarships are required to attend a seminar where specificdevelopment and learning outcomes are realized in a team-based, project-based approach. Thechallenging and engaging aspect of the SEECS program is this zero-credit seminar. The SEECSseminar is structured around three components: engineering design, professional development,and personal development. While the two development facets are valued, the engineering design component is thepivotal experience connecting and building not only engineering competency but also personalconfidence. Emphasizing the service-learning aspect of the seminar, the design projects benefitregional non-profit organizations. The design activities pair the freshmen cohort with the seniors;the sophomores with the juniors. Through these pairings, the students learn from each otherwhile working on a real-world problem. Hence, the learning becomes relevant and the scholarsexcel as they share the intellectual, problem-solving aspects of design for an organization valuingtheir contribution. At this time, four design projects have been fostered by the SEECS seminar: two fullyimplemented, one in the design and deploy phases, and one in the requirements gathering stage.Each project supported different service organizations, complemented different distributions ofmajors, and required different technical competencies. Although structurally different, all fourprojects incorporate the aims of the SEECS program. The following paper presents the methods used by the grant co-PIs to identify potentialstakeholders, to establish relationships with non-profit agencies, to recognize engineering needs,to define viable student projects, and to lead scholars in design tasks. Applied through the seriesof design projects, the methods enable the co-PIs to have the appropriate communication neededwith the non-profit in the early-stages of project definition on through the final stages ofdeployment. The success of the methods is supported by student evaluations of their growth inunderstanding design and in appreciating their role in society. Finally, the potential for using theSEECS design approach as a model for a project-based, honors-option for academically-talentedstudents in SEECS majors is discussed.

Vernaza, K. M., & Vitolo, T. M., & Brinkman, B. J., & Steinbrink, S. (2012, June), Seeking Relevancy, Building Excellence: Service-learning in the SEECS Program Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21904

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