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Teaching Design for Constrained Environments: A Partnership with Non-Governmental Organizations

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2015 ASEE International Forum


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 14, 2015

Conference Session

Concurrent Paper Tracks - Session II

Tagged Topic

International Forum

Page Count


Page Numbers

19.34.1 - 19.34.6



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Paper Authors


Russell D Jamison Virginia Commonwealth University

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Russ Jamison is the Alice T. and William H. Goodwin, Jr. Chair of Engineering Education, and Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Chemical and Life Science Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is Dean Emeritus of the VCU School of Engineering. He previously served as Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Founding Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has also served as Senior Vice President for Research and Development at Smith & Nephew PLC, a global provider of orthopedic and otolaryngology implants. He began his engineering career at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory after serving with the U.S. Army 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Europe.

Professor Jamison received the B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Engineering Science and Mechanics and Materials Science Engineering respectively from Virginia Tech and the M.S. degree in Engineering Physics from the University of Virginia. He was Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bath, UK. He lives in Richmond, Virginia.

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Teaching Design for Constrained Environments: A Partnership with Non-Governmental Organizations Russell D. Jamison, Ph.D. Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, Virginia USABackgroundSenior capstone design is an essential element of most undergraduate engineering curricula. Itprovides the opportunity to show evidence of the ability of students to integrate their acquiredtechnical knowledge in solving real engineering problems. A rich source of real and challengingengineering problems is the developing world. Such problems are frequently notable for theconstraints they embody – including cost, durability, maintainability, simplicity, and cultural fit.Students presented with problems of this type must empathize with a consumer and an environ-ment about which they typically have no firsthand knowledge. This is design for the real world.ObjectiveThe objective of this project is to develop a sustainable mechanism by which engineering soph-omore and junior students can be engaged in a modified study abroad experience. In this model“study” becomes “work” and “abroad” becomes “developing countries.” By partnering withNon-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s), academic departments can provide students the ex-perience of environments of constraint in the developing world. Such an experience can providestudents a global framework for design thinking – a potentially useful skill in a global economy.Pilot StudyIn the summer of 2014, three undergraduate biomedical engineering students from VCU spenttwo months at provincial clinics and hospitals in Nicaragua (two students) and Tanzania (onestudent). They were part of a cohort of students selected by Engineering World Health (EWH).Their first month was spent in an orientation program that provided language and culture instruc-tion as well as instruction in repair of medical equipment they would encounter in the field. Stu-dents spent the second month working in small teams at partner clinics and hospitals where theyrepaired broken equipment. Much of this equipment had been donated by western NGO’s andmedical device companies. Eighty percent of such donated equipment is typically inoperablewithin one year of donation (EWH data). VCU students were further tasked to engage in “needsfinding” by engaging doctors, nurses and technicians in the host clinics. When the students re-turned to VCU for the fall semester, they briefed junior design course students on their findingsand facilitated the development of semester design projects to address the needs they identified.ResultsThe paper presents preliminary results of the pilot study and observations from both students andclinical partners on the effectiveness of the model. The paper also includes a “pre-pilot” studyconducted in 2015 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in partnership with the World Pediatric Pro-ject (WPP). This NGO supports infrastructure development and clinical team visits to hospitalsthroughout the Caribbean. This study examines the feasibility of sending students to assist in thedevelopment of a neonatal intensive care unit in the partner hospital in a multi-year partnership.

Jamison, R. D. (2015, June), Teaching Design for Constrained Environments: A Partnership with Non-Governmental Organizations Paper presented at 2015 ASEE International Forum, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/1-2--17157

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