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The Sky’s the Limit: Drones for Social Good

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Katie Barillas Rowan University

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Katie Barillas is an Lecturer in the Experiential Engineering Education Department at Rowan University. She has her BS in Chemical Engineering from Lafayette College and an MS and PhD in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. Before starting at Rowan in 2017, she taught high school chemistry for 5 years. She teaches in the Engineering Clinic course sequence in the College of Engineering. Her goal is to attract and retain minority students by developing inclusive curriculum.

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Stephen Fernandez Rowan University

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Sustainable energy engineer with expertise in design of stand-alone hybrid photovoltaic / wind
turbine systems, stochastic processes, Markov modeling, multivariate copulas, and optimization
through the use of meta-heuristic algorithms. Professional experiences in secondary school
STEM education, collegiate service-learning, and sustainable energy installations in Latin
America. Experience in multi-disciplinary collaborations, in addition to collaborations with
businesses, non-profit organizations, and community-based organizations. Involved in efforts
that engage communities in designing, implementing, and maintaining varied sustainable energy
technologies and using them as vehicles for economic and community development. Dedicated to promoted social justice and peace in the engineering profession.

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A full semester course, with a focus on engineering design to promote social good, was developed for second-year engineering students. The course, The Sky’s the Limit: Drones for Social Good, engages students with drone technology as well as the awareness of the needs, challenges, and resources of diverse communities and how drones can serve these communities. Humanities, ethics, and human centered design are explored in the context of engineering, and interwoven throughout the semester. The Sky’s the Limit: Drones for Social Good course includes critical aspects that relate to multiple engineering disciplines, which allows students to identify the connections between drones and their particular engineering concentration. The course is also multi-disciplinary and encourages critical social reflection. Students consider a broad range of applications of drones with the goal of promoting social good. The course culminates in an entrepreneurial project that incorporates knowledge and skills from several engineering disciplines in the context of engineering for social good.

Research has found that engineering students who are female, Black, and/or Latinx, are drawn to pursuing careers that they identify as promoting social justice and a greater social good. By engaging students in a semester-long, project-based engineering course in which they develop applications of drones that are designed to benefit diverse communities, our course should aid in retention of female, Black and Latinx students.

As part of Rowan University’s engineering program, all second-year students majoring in engineering take a project-specific sophomore engineering class (SEC) during their spring semester. Our course, The Sky’s the Limit: Drones for Social Good, was taught to a small subsection of students taking SEC. SEC courses are generally taught in sections of 20-24 students. Students self-select for the project of their preference and about 80 students self-selected to work on the drones for social good project. In future work, assessment of the success of the course curriculum will be completed through qualitative analysis of student reflections, interviews and document analysis of student work. Additionally changes in students’ attitudes towards engineering and social responsibility will be assessed through quantitative analysis.

Barillas, K., & Fernandez, S. (2019, June), The Sky’s the Limit: Drones for Social Good Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33425

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