June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.1361.1 - 11.1361.11
Undergraduate Research on Appropriate and Sustainable Technology Abstract
This paper describes the funding sources, educational outcomes, and diversity of students served by conducting research on appropriate and sustainable technology. Since 2001, more than twelve undergraduate students have conducted research on the water treatment effectiveness of the Filtrón, including eight students independently and four students as a class team project. The Filtrón is a point-of-use drinking water filter that can be produced inexpensively in communities world-wide. Some of the student researchers were participants in the Environmental Engineering Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site and Summer Multicultural Access to Research and Training (SMART) program. Students have also been funded through the Discovery Learning (DL) Apprentice Program, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), and the Engineering Excellence Fund (EEF). Students have also earned three credits of Independent Study that they applied as a technical elective toward their B.S. degree. The undergraduate student researchers majored in civil, chemical, environmental, or mechanical engineering, and have included four underrepresented minorities and seven women. Research is currently continuing with a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) P3 program. The Filtrón research also has been used as a demonstration in numerous outreach activities. The filter has been evaluated in service-learning projects through Engineers Without Borders (EWB-CU) and capstone design to provide safe water. Laboratory research on the Filtrón is also contrasted with opportunities to earn course credit for involvement with EWB projects. This serves as an example of how research on appropriate technology appeals to a diverse range of students and can provide real benefits to developing communities.
The purposes of academic engineering research activities can be broadly grouped into two main goals that are complementary yet distinct: (1) education of students; and (2) production of new knowledge of practical importance. Participation in research activities has numerous benefits to the education and professional development of students. In particular, Seymour et al.1 did an exhaustive study to document the outcomes of summer research experiences for students in science, math, and engineering fields. The benefits of undergraduate research were grouped into six main areas: personal/professional; thinking and working like a scientist; skills; refining career/educational paths; enhanced career/graduate school preparation; and changed attitudes toward learning and working as a researcher. Some of these beneficial outcomes may be difficult to achieve in traditional coursework that comprises the bulk of most engineering curricula.
Within environmental engineering and other fields, most of the research in the U.S. is focused on “high-tech” solutions. However, there is a great need to provide low-cost, appropriate and sustainable technology (AST) solutions to basic needs in developing countries for water, sanitation, energy, and shelter.2 AST is suited in size and complexity to the local conditions, can be maintained using locally available resources and human capital, and does not deplete long- term sustainability through inefficient energy use, depleting natural resources, or creating by-
Bielefeldt, A. (2006, June), Undergraduate Research On Appropriate And Sustainable Technology Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/721
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