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Service Learning in Biological and Agricultural Engineering: Journeys in Community Engagement

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Strategies to enhance student learning

Tagged Division

Biological & Agricultural

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Paper Authors


Marybeth Lima P.E. Louisiana State University

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Marybeth is a Professor in Biological & Agricultural Engineering and Director of the LSU Center for Community Engagement, Learning and Leadership. She co-authored the textbook Service-Learning: Engineering in Your Community (Oxford University Press) with Bill Oakes and is the author of Building Playgrounds Engaging Communities: Creating Safe and Happy Places for Children (LSU Press).

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Ann D. Christy P.E. Ohio State University Orcid 16x16

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Ann D. Christy, PE, is a professor of Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering and a professor of Engineering Education at the Ohio State University (OSU). She earned both her B.S. in agricultural engineering and M.S. in biomedical engineering at OSU, and her Ph.D. in environmental engineering at Clemson University. She worked for an engineering consulting firm before entering academia and continues to collaborate with the consulting industry. She has taught courses in bioenergy, biological engineering, capstone design, HVAC, thermodynamics, waste management, professional development, and engineering teaching. Her research interests include energy, the environment, and engineering education. She is assistant dean for teaching and learning in the College of Engineering. She is a second-generation woman engineer.

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Service learning has a long history in biological and agricultural engineering involving academic student learning outcomes attainment that occurs through hands-on projects implemented in and for the community. Best practices in engagement between an academic institution and the community are characterized by mutually beneficial relationships, clear inclusion of the community partner's voice, intentional reflection by the students on their experiences, and a longer length of commitment. Service learning is built upon a foundational educational theory of constructivism where students make practical connections between what they have learned in their engineering classrooms, what they have experienced in the past, and the service project itself. In addition, it enhances student motivation because students feel that they are making a positive difference in the world beyond their engineering studies.

This paper reviews the co-authors experiences with service learning including designing and building playgrounds for elementary schools (the 33rd was built during ASEE's 2016 conference), a rooftop rainwater harvesting system for low income government-supplied housing, greywater treatment and irrigation system for a community garden, a tower garden to treat greywater and grow vegetables, and a better way to make earthen bricks for rural home building in rural South African villages. Other projects included providing technical consulting service to a neighborhood impacted by local hazardous waste sites and a series of designs for wild animal habitats. Assessment measures included student portfolios, interviews with students and community clients, self-assessments by students, student evaluations of instruction, and technical quality of the final projects.

Lima, M., & Christy, A. D. (2017, June), Service Learning in Biological and Agricultural Engineering: Journeys in Community Engagement Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28822

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