Asee peer logo

The Development and Integration of Humanitarian Engineering Curriculum in an Engineering Technology Program

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE International Forum


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 14, 2014

Start Date

June 14, 2014

End Date

June 14, 2014

Conference Session

Track 2 - Session 2

Tagged Topic

Curriculum and Lab Development

Page Count


Page Numbers

20.38.1 - 20.38.7



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Aaron Brown Metropolitan State University of Denver

visit author page

Aaron Brown is Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology and Coordinator at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
His education includes:
B.S., California State University-Chico; M.S., University of Colorado-Boulder; PhD Candidate Civil Systems Engineering; University of Colorado at Boulder

Professor Brown's background includes aerospace industry work. Among his notable project contributions were design work on the landing mechanism for the Mars Science Laboratory Rover Mission AKA Curiosity. Mechanism design work for Hubble Robotics and on Global Precipitation Measurement Instrument Missions. Additionally, Professor Brown has worked at the National Institute of Standards and Technology designing test equipment to measure stress-strain relationships to superconductor performance.

His past work on the tethering landing mechanism used to lower the Mars rover Curiosity to the Red Planet’s surface is part of a $2.5 billion program NASA says will assess whether the Gale Crater area of Mars has ever had the potential to support a habitable environment.

Professor Brown runs the NASA Space Grant program at MSU Denver. His current research interests include electric vehicle optimization and design, robotics, and harvesting solar energy, green energy, and Humanitarian Engineering. He created a course called Humanitarian Engineering, where he took students to Costa Rica for 10 days in January 2013 to work on a water project for a new school.

Concurrently with his work at MSU Denver, Professor Brown is pursuing a PhD degree in Civil System Engineering under the advising of Dr. Bernard Amadei with a topic in Sustainable Community Development, and implementing technologies that help marginalized communities.

With limited free time his interests outside of work include cycling (he is an ex-professional bike racer), skiing, hiking, travel and exploring other cultures.

visit author page

author page

Duane B Swigert Metropolitan State University of Denver

Download Paper |


The Development and Integration of Humanitarian Engineering Curriculum in an Engineering Technology ProgramHumanitarian Engineering is the application of engineering research and work to directly benefitmarginalized people. Marginalization in this case can be defined as applying to people who lackthe capital to acquire a basic place in society due to a host of reasons. Some common examplesof the forces that drive people into a marginalized position include poverty, lack of locallanguage competency, low education attainment opportunity, health issues, and environmentalstructure related to region, government policies, class systems, etc. humanitarian engineering isdesigning to apply engineering knowledge to directly benefit and improve the position andcapacity of these marginalized people. In general, humanitarian engineering focuses onappropriate technologies using locally sourced available resources that are affordable andsustainable. It is participatory in nature and often involves simple solutions to solve problemsrelated to basic needs (i.e. clean water, air, sanitation, heat, shelter etc.). As such, training for onewho participates in humanitarian engineering incorporates history, politics, economics,sociology, language, as well as rigorous engineering basics.The nature of humanitarian engineering projects offer a unique opportunity to teach studentsthrough an approach that integrates theory with a practical hands-on experience. By creating alearning environment through helping marginalized communities, students are challenged withproblems that enhance their critical thinking ability and help them acquire new technical skills.Moreover, the service learning aspect of these projects contribute to students walking away fromthe experience with a bigger picture and awareness of the world and how they can contribute tosolving some of humanity’s challenges.This paper focuses on the development and introduction of humanitarian engineering curriculumto an existing engineering technology program. Specifically, the paper will highlight threeinnovations which were integrated into the engineering technology program at MetropolitanState University of Denver:  The development of a course titled “Humanitarian Engineering” whose first edition took students abroad to do a community development project in Costa Rica.  The integrating of a projects class with focus on an engineering project which had students design, construct, test and implement soda-can solar furnaces for a local marginalized community in Denver  The creation of a humanitarian engineering student club and how that club is increasing student involvement in undergraduate research projects and its role in service learning.

Brown, A., & Swigert, D. B. (2014, June), The Development and Integration of Humanitarian Engineering Curriculum in an Engineering Technology Program Paper presented at 2014 ASEE International Forum, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--17201

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2014 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015