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Service Learning Projects As Platforms For An Undergraduate Project Management Course

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Professional Development/Scholarship & Service Learning

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1123.1 - 11.1123.10



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Paper Authors


Phillip Sanger Western Carolina University

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Phillip Sanger is an Associate Professor of Engineering and Technology and serves as the Director of the Center for Integrated Technologies at Western Carolina University. He holds a B.A. in Physics from Saint Louis University and earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Wisconsin Madison. Technology development including MRI magnets and SiC power devices plus economic development has been his career foci.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Service Learning Projects as Platforms for an Undergraduate Project Management Course


One of the challenges facing today’s engineering faculty is how to make the textbook knowledge real to the student. This is especially true in the area of project management where the essence of the subject is a combination of people skills and planning skills. Both of these skills have been identified by ABET as essential skills for the next generation of engineers1. At Western Carolina University, project management is a senior level course and a requirement for graduation. Prior approaches to the course required the creation of individual project as part of the course. It was preferred that the project be an actual and useful project but often times it was only an imaginary project. In the fall 2005 semester, the instructor chose to plan and execute an actual project during the course. This pedagogical approach has been successfully demonstrated to work at the graduate level2 but had not been tried at the undergraduate level. After careful evaluation, the project was selected to plan and execute the move of an organization that serves persons with disability from their existing facility to a new location. This paper presents the criteria for the project selection, the approach to the project plan, the reality of this approach, the lessons learned and the reflections of the students and faculty on the total learning experience.


Of the many skills demanded of new engineers, one is the ability to organize, manage and be effective in project teams. Proficiency in teaming skills and in project management tools is an important element of the ABET requirements1. Many of the tools of project management have been well defined over the past fifty years and our students are expected to be proficient in their use. These tools include creating a succinct and clear project proposal, constructing well organized work breakdown structures, generating task estimates and budgets, putting together schedules and task relationships using tools like Gantt charts, developing risk mitigation strategies, and resolving and managing personnel conflicts. An experienced project manager knows very well that the most challenging aspect of project management is dealing with people. It’s all about people! As in many pedagogical approaches, hands-on experience through real life projects is invaluable to the learning process and this is most particularly true for conflict management and negotiation. At Western Carolina University, a three hour course in project management covering all these topics is a requirement of graduation in the Engineering Technology program of the Kimmel School of Construction Management, Engineering and Technology. In the past the curriculum has included the development of an individual project as the culmination of the course. While this project could be real, it was more commonly conceptual and imaginary. In the fall 2005 semester, the approach was to plan and execute an actual project during the course. The principle philosophy embodied in the course is crystallized in the often quoted Chinese proverb: Tell me and I’ll forget Show me and I might remember Involve me and I will understand! This class was focused on learning the skills of project management and immediately applying the learning to a real project. This pedagogical approach has been successfully demonstrated to

Sanger, P. (2006, June), Service Learning Projects As Platforms For An Undergraduate Project Management Course Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--865

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