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Student Design For The Developing World

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

International Case Studies, Interactive Learning, Student Design

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1127.1 - 9.1127.7



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Paper Authors

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Richard Vaz

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

Session 2260

Student Design for the Developing World Richard Vaz, Stephen J. Bitar Worcester Polytechnic Institute Timothy Prestero, Neil Cantor Design that Matters

I. Introduction

The Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has instituted a sophomore-level course entitled “ECE Design” to focus on teaching design as a process, with the specific intents of better preparing students for their senior capstone design projects, and at the same time assessing their ability to apply fundamental knowledge in a design context. The ECE Design course1,2 is run as a simulated business, with faculty serving as “Engineering Managers” who teach the process of design and manage the learning experience. The students work in three-person design teams to design a viable product, from market research through to demonstration of a working prototype. The student teams keep extensive engineering notebooks, report out their work to the faculty and external evaluators in technical Design Reviews, and submit formal design reports.

In a recent offering of the course, WPI faculty collaborated with Design that MattersTM (DtM), a nonprofit organization that acts as a bridge between students of design and underserved communities around the world3. Students work in collaboration with DtM to create products and services to address unmet needs in those communities. The students in the ECE Design course were given two design challenges that address the problem of adult literacy in areas of Mali that are without electrical infrastructure. DtM has developed a prototype portable library and projection system called the Kinkajou Microfilm Library4 to be used in Mali; the system runs on 12V automobile batteries, the most common source of electrical power in many areas of the developing world. The first challenge presented to the WPI students was to design a “universal charge controller” to allow the charging of 12V automobile batteries from various sources including bicycle-powered generators and small solar panels. The second was to develop a highly efficient power supply for the Kinkajou projector, building on two previous design cycles that had been completed by mechanical engineering students at MIT.

This paper will describe the experience of WPI faculty and students in addressing a design problem embedded in a cultural context from the developing world, as well as the experience of Design that Matters in working with sophomore-level design students to develop products to bring to market abroad. In addition to describing the results of the design work, we will discuss

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Vaz, R. (2004, June), Student Design For The Developing World Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13136

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