Christian Engineering Education Conference

Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23-25, 2004

Service-Learning Approaches to International Humanitarian Design Projects: Assessment of Spiritual Impact

Matthew G. Green and Kristin L. Wood
Dept. of Mechanical Engineering,
The University of Texas, Austin

Carl Erikson
Dept. of Engineering, Messiah College Grantham, PA

Steven H. VanderLeest
Dept. of Engineering, Calvin College
Grand Rapids, MI

Frank T. Duda
Dept. of Engineering, Grove City College Grove City, PA

Nolan Van Gaalen
Dept. of Engineering, Dordt College
Sioux Center, IA

Christians are called to be both globally aware (Mt. 28:19-20, [1]) and sensitive to humanitarian needs (Mt. 25:38-40). This leads to an awareness of abundant opportunities to give aid, often in ways which may be linked to the name of Jesus Christ (Mt. 5:16, Gal. 6:10, [2]). Engineering faculty at Christian institutions have a unique stewardship opportunity to channel the enthusiasm of students who are eager to apply their newly acquired engineering tools. This paper discusses a special case of service-learning projects [3] that involve applying engineering skills to address problems of the poor in developing nations. These are referred to here as “international humanitarian” (IH) projects. Four such projects are summarized, including the design of (1) a women’s hospital in Nigeria by senior engineering students at Calvin College, (2) a crop irrigation system in support of a Honduran community development organization by Dordt College students, (3) a modular and scalable solar power system providing economical power to remote areas by electrical engineering seniors at Grove City College, and (4) a water purification system in Guatemala by Messiah College students.
General pedagogical aspects of these projects are documented and discussed in-depth in a parallel ASEE paper[4]. Here we turn our attention to aspects of special interest to Christian engineering educators. We discuss (1) the objectives that motivate IH projects, (2) steps to enhance achievement of these objectives, and (3) a reflective assessment of how well each project fulfilled these objectives. We conclude by highlighting implications for future IH student projects, taking into consideration good stewardship of limited monetary and human resources (Mt. 25:14-30).

[1] VanderLeest, Steven H. and Nielsen, Edward G., "Global Engineering and the Liberal Arts," Proceedings of the 1998 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Conference, Seattle, WA, 1998.

[2] Duda, Frank T., “Experiences with Identifying Senior Level Engineering Design Projects to Meet Developing Country Needs,” Proceedings of the 4th Christian Engineering Education Conference (CEEC), June 19-21, 2002, Montreal, Canada, pp 18-22.

[3] Tsang, E., Projects That Matter: Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Engineering, American Association for Higher Education, 2001. Preview:

[4] Green, M.G., Wood, K.L., VanderLeest, S.H., Duda, F.T., Erikson, C., Van Gaalen, N., “Service-Learning Approaches to International Humanitarian Design Projects: A Model Based on Experiences of Faith-Based Institutions,” Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, UT, June 2004.

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