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“The Road Less Travelled”: Engineering With Vulnerable Communities Through NGOs

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Community-Engaged Engineering Education Challenges and Opportunities in Light of COVID-19 Paper Presentations 2

Tagged Divisions

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society, Community Engagement Division, and Equity, Culture & Social Justice in Education

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Juan C. Lucena Colorado School of Mines

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Juan Lucena is Professor and Director of Humanitarian Engineering Undergraduate Programs at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM). Juan obtained a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from Virginia Tech and a MS in STS and BS in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). His books include Defending the Nation: U.S. Policymaking to Create Scientists and Engineers from Sputnik to the ‘War Against Terrorism’ (University Press of America, 2005), Engineering and Sustainable Community Development (Morgan &Claypool, 2010), and Engineering Education for Social Justice: Critical Explorations and Opportunities (Springer, 2013).

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Since the explosion in growth of NGOs dedicated to community development in the 1990s, these organizations present new possibilities for engineers to serve, work and design with communities without the perils of short-term trips. But how do engineering teams go about identifying NGOs that are effective, responsible, and accountable to the communities they hope to serve? How do engineering students understand how to work in these organizations that historically have not been part of traditional engineering career pathways – “The Road Less Travelled”? This paper presents a conceptual model for understanding, partnering, and building relationships between engineering teams and NGOs, organizations that rarely figure in the employment landscape of engineering. It proposes that sustainable community development (SCD) projects require a level of embeddedness in communities, engagement, continuity and logistical maturity that most engineering schools with community-engagement programs are ill equipped to provide by themselves but that in partnership with properly selected NGOs they might be ready to deliver. Moving beyond the dangers and perils of trips to "save the poor," the program at University [name blinded for review] is developing new interactions with socially responsible and accountable NGOs to ensure that communities are empowered through engineering projects for sustainable community development. To ensure that these projects can better serve and empower communities, this paper shows 1) how engineers can map their partnerships with NGOs; 2) how to develop engineering design courses where students learn human-centered problem definition and explore design challenges with NGO partners; and 3) how to develop relationships with NGOs so students can have community engagement opportunities even under severe international travel restrictions like those we face today in the midst of a global pandemic.

Lucena, J. C. (2021, July), “The Road Less Travelled”: Engineering With Vulnerable Communities Through NGOs Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36537

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