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Why the Human Connections Formed through Service-learning Matter

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Lessons Learned through Community Engagement of Engineering Students

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1479.1 - 25.1479.8



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Paper Authors


Lynne A. Slivovsky California Polytechnic State University

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Lynne Slivovsky, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (Ph.D., Purdue University, 2001), has led service-learning initiatives both within the College of Engineering and across the university at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. In 2003, she received the Frontiers In Education New Faculty Fellow Award. Her work in service-learning led to her selection in 2007 as a California Campus Compact-Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Faculty Fellow for Service-learning for Political Engagement. She currently oversees two multidisciplinary service-learning programs: the Access by Design project that has capstone students design devices for people with disabilities to participate in adapted physical activity, and Organic Twittering that merges social media with sustainability.

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James M. Widmann California Polytechnic State University

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Jim Widmann is a professor of mechanical engineering at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He received his Ph.D. in 1994 from Stanford University. Currently, he is a visiting Fulbright scholar at Kathmandu University in Nepal. He teaches mechanics and design courses. He conducts research in the areas of machine design, fluid power control, and engineering education.

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Brian P. Self California Polytechnic State University

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Brian P. Self obtained his B.S. and M.S. degrees in engineering mechanics from Virginia Tech and his Ph.D. in bioengineering from the University of Utah. He worked in the Air Force Research Laboratories before teaching at the U.S. Air Force Academy for seven years. Self has taught in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, since 2006. During the 2011-2012 academic year, he participated in a professor exchange, teaching at the Munich University of Applied Sciences. His engineering education interests include collaborating on the Dynamics Concept Inventory, developing model-eliciting activities in mechanical engineering courses, inquiry-based learning in mechanics, and design projects to help promote adapted physical activities. Other professional interests include aviation physiology and biomechanics.

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J. Kevin Taylor California Polytechnic State University


David W. Hey California Polytechnic State University

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David W. Hey, Assistant Professor of kinesiology and health promotion received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in community health education and school health education from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, and his Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University in 2004. He worked as both a middle school and high school health education teacher from (1993-1998), for which he obtained a Wisconsin state teacher’s license K-12 #910. Hey is also a certified Health Education Specialist (CHES), CHES license #14359, through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing Organization. ( Since joining Cal Poly, he has been teaching numerous courses including: Healthy Living, Multi-Cultural Health, Drug Education, Health Behavior Change, School Health for Teachers, and Health Promotion Planning and Theory. His involvement with this paper was to qualitatively evaluate the Senior Engineering Design Projects (specifically student’s ability to “learn design”). Hey’s passion is sailing and long distance running.

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Why the Human Connections Formed through Service-Learning MatterAs one of Kuh’s high-impact educational practices, service-learning fosters deep learningand promotes both personal and practical gains. As a pedagogy, service-learning is oftenused as the context in another high-impact practice: capstone design. Together, the twooffer students the opportunity to integrate and synthesize their knowledge in a new, andoften diverse, setting. The experience has students working on real world problems forvery tangible real people, with whom they interact to understand and define the scope andobjectives of their design projects.This paper presents findings on the effects of service-learning on attitudes toward peoplewith disabilities. A mixed method study was conducted consisting of a 74 itemquantitative instrument and qualitative analysis of written reflections and focus groupstranscripts. The Ableism Index includes subscales on intergroup anxiety, resistance toequalizing policies, negative internal states, contempt, phobic, and confidence. It wasadministered to students pre- and post- their capstone design class during which studentsworked on either an adapted physical activity service-learning project or an industry-sponsored project. Eighteen focus groups were conducted with student teams whoworked on adapted physical activity design projects. Student motivation differed basedon project type, and altruism increased for those working on service-learning projects thatwe attribute to the relationships formed with individual clients.

Slivovsky, L. A., & Widmann, J. M., & Self, B. P., & Taylor, J. K., & Hey, D. W. (2012, June), Why the Human Connections Formed through Service-learning Matter Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22236

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