June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Community Engagement Division
24.1097.1 - 24.1097.22
Sponsoring Research in Appropriate Technology Appropriate Technology (AT) is commonly understood as “simple” technology thatapplies primarily to “underdeveloped” or poor communities. Such views render AT to be behindthe frontier of technological innovation, and thus not a suitable topic for engineering research.Moreover, only a small portion of sponsored research and development – both by governmentand private industry – is focused in AT. Thus, although many engineers serve as volunteers indeveloping communities, and some work for development agencies, relatively few organize theirresearch efforts and career trajectories around efforts or principles of AT. We first critique this traditional viewpoint, arguing that a growing number of engineeringstudents are seeking opportunities to apply their skills to specific societal and communityconcerns, often associated with “developing” communities. We further argue that the concept ofAT is broad enough to include application to “developed” communities, expanding even furtherboth the potential pool and need for talented engineers to perform research in AT. Finally, weargue that appropriate technologies often require highly technical methods in their research anddevelopment, and corresponding ethical issues arise in this context must also be considered. To make these ideas concrete, we summarize our current work, sponsored by a grantfrom the National Science Foundation, to sponsor research in AT. The ongoing work of fourMasters degree students and one undergraduate student – in diverse fields such as transportationengineering, water quality engineering, power systems engineering, heat transfer engineering,and structural engineering – will be summarized. These examples illustrate that such research isboth technically grounded, adding new knowledge to the scientific literature, as well ascommunity focused, often addressing a niche that is not served by the usual research paradigms.These examples further illustrate that interdisciplinarity and understanding of social context areessential for conducting research in AT. To institutionalize the training of researchers in AT, a new course, “ResponsibleResearch in Appropriate Technology”, has been created to prepare research students tounderstand and anticipate research ethics issues, both in general (e.g., research misconduct,IRB’s, informed consent, and authoring & peer review) and in the context of AT (e.g., rights andcapabilities, human dignity, technology choice, environmental responsibilities, and informedconsent in communities). Enrolled graduate students explore their own research in this light, andshare their research with undergraduates, often leading to meaningful mentoring relationships,further attracting additional potential students to conduct study or research in AT. In summary, we present a broad view of AT which applies both “developing” and“developed” societies. Our efforts provide a concrete and successful pathway for the sponsoringresearch in AT and providing mentoring to young researchers. Ultimately we hope to set asidemindsets that obscure viable career pathways in AT, and to foster the growth and development ofthe next generation of appropriate technologists, both at our institution and elsewhere.
Papadopoulos, C., & Frey, W. J., & Castro-Sitiriche, M. J., & Rodriguez, J. M., & Santiago, J., & Medina, T., & Maldonado, R., & Rivera-Vélez, C., & Chacon-Hurtado, D., & Acevedo, P. J. (2014, June), Sponsoring Research in Appropriate Technology Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23030
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