June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
12.1499.1 - 12.1499.14
Training Internationally Responsible Engineers Introduction
With engineering increasingly becoming an international discipline, engineering training will require students to understand and work with different cultures, peoples, practices, ethics and paradigms. Organizations such as Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) and Engineers without Borders (EWB) are just two organizations that are bringing sustainable development issues into the classrooms through the formation of chapters at universities. Krishna S. Athreya, director of ESW, explains that the goal of ESW is to “educate a generation of engineers to have greater understanding of global issues and the ways technology can be employed for human progress” and in turn, Athreya explains, “helping the impoverished have a better life can, for students, be a life-changing experience."1
A recent article discussed how undergraduate engineering students were involved in engineering projects to help solve the problems of the developing world. Projects ranged from simple (e.g. creating a tool for removing kernels from dried corn) to complex (e.g. design an inexpensive cytometer for hospitals). In the development of the tool for removing kernels, students stated “… we found in the class that it’s not always the technical aspects that are important—it’s also cultural.”2
Opportunities for engineering graduates to apply their expertise to solve both technical and social problems in the world around them will be beneficial to them in future careers. An article in the Cornell Chronicle observed, “No longer the ‘me generation’, American engineering students are actively taking on some of the world’s toughest problems…students and professional engineers [are] working to improve the lot of some of the world’s poorest communities, many in the developing world.”3 Helping the impoverished have a better life enables students to look beyond themselves into the world around them.
In order to engage engineering students from many disciplines in a global opportunity, a new variable credit (1-3) course was developed and is currently in progress during the Winter 2007 semester. For all engineering disciplines (chemical, civil/environmental, electrical/computer, and mechanical), the course is applicable towards one of the student’s technical elective requirements. Students from all engineering and technology disciplines were invited to enroll, thus enriching the class with different strengths, viewpoints and backgrounds. The course was open to those who completed or were concurrently enrolled in the pre-requisites for their professional program. The course revolves around designing and implementing an engineering solution to a local issue in an impoverished community.
This year’s project involves the developmental plan and small-scale implementation of biodiesel production from coconut oil on the Pacific Island of Tonga. 50 years ago, Tonga’s economy centered around the export of coconuts and coconut oil. In the 1980’s soybeans came onto the world market, and the price for coconut oil dropped dramatically, forcing all coconut processing facilities in Tonga to go out of business. Losing their primary export drastically hurt the Tongan economy, and it has never fully recovered. Tonga currently generates all their electricity using
Frankman, A., & Jones, J., & Wilding, W. V., & Lewis, R. (2007, June), Training Internationally Responsible Engineers Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/1635
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