June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.1276.1 - 14.1276.10
Training Engineering Leaders through International Community Development Projects
Future engineering leaders will need to apply their skills across many economic and cultural boundaries, yet these experiences are often overlooked in a traditional engineering education. Service learning, or community service integrated into the academic program, provides a unique opportunity for students to apply their engineering skills to problems facing underserved communities worldwide. At the University of Texas at Austin, students have shown their enthusiasm for these activities through the campus chapter of Engineers Without Boarders (EWB). In 2008, a multidisciplinary design course with both technical and cultural components was developed with a EWB project as its focus. During the semester, students worked on a water treatment and distribution system for a girls' school, Saker Baptist College (SBC), in Cameroon, Africa. Non-enrolled students were also given the opportunity to participate on an as-needed basis. Students were divided according to skill level and preference into one of five project teams. These teams were intended to cover the major areas of product design, project planning, community/customer relations, and community health and education. Class time was divided among lectures from international volunteers, discussions of west African literature and politics, and project work. At the completion of the semester, students were prepared to travel to Cameroon to complete the assessment phase of the project. Supervision was provided by a faculty member, a teaching assistant, a professional engineer, and two student project leaders to ensure completion of the semester's work. Student feedback to date has been positive and course instructor survey results will be used to further develop service learning opportunities for engineering student leaders.
Service Learning is widely accepted as a blending of community based service with coursework allowing students to enhance their academic learning experience through direct community engagement. It is not simply volunteering on a community service project. Though very beneficial to community development, service projects are not directly linked to course content nor require the technical rigger of Service Learning programs. The motivation behind Service Learning is simply that individuals cannot be complacent in the face of need and higher education can be a dynamic force in encouraging community service1. This integration of service with coursework has been reported to add significantly to the benefits of community service2. The reported benefits of Service Learning are promising. Improved student retention3, interpersonal skills4, cultural and racial understanding5, academic achievement6, sense of identity7, sense of social responsibility8, commitment to continued service9, and involvement from underrepresented populations in engineering10 are all among the marked benefits of student participation in Service Learning programs. At the community level, Service Learning programs have been helpful in providing useful service11 and strengthening university relations12.
Vaughan, M., & Ellzey, J. (2009, June), Training Engineering Leaders Through International Community Development Projects Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4905
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