NOTE: This abstract is being submitted for the Engagement in Practice paper for the session, “Engineers and Communities: Critical Reflections of Challenges, Opportunities, and Practices of Engaging Each Other,” proposed by Prof. Juan Lucena.
At (Removed for Double Blind Review), community engagement projects are incorporated at the first year with design, development, and delivery of adapted musical instruments for local school children following the human centered design process and in the second year with design, development, and delivery of human-powered vehicles for individuals with disabilities. Then in the two-year junior/senior capstone, all of our students are encouraged to work with faculty and staff to identify local community members to engage with through the project.
In particular, this Engagement in Practice paper will focus on the second-year project. This project, building human-powered vehicles for community members, is in its 10th year and is a required, year-long, client-based, design project interwoven with instruction in a two-course design sequence generally taken during students' second year. The course sequence incorporates experiential, problem-based learning and active learning pedagogies to teach sophomore engineering students engineering design fundamentals. The course project experience focuses on the design, development, and construction of a human-powered vehicle for an individual with special needs. Through the course, students not only learn about the engineering design process, but also, they learn about themselves as budding engineers and their future role as an engineer in society.
Course partners (both internal and external to the university) have helped to make the course a success. For example, through the course, students have open opportunities to meet with their users and their users' parents on their own time as needed due to an arraignment with the (Removed for Double Blind Review) program as users are required to enroll in the program when the accept a place in our program. Through this partnership, users receive the strength and flexibility training that they will need to ride the human powered vehicle that they will eventually receive. Students work to create a design that plays to the user’s strengths such that the recipient will be able to ride the bike as independently as possible. Students frequently refer to this course sequence as the most meaningful experience of their engineering studies at (Removed for Double Blind Review) during exit interviews. For recipients, the results have been equally powerful from breaking down in tears after riding their first ever 5K to obtaining a learner permit after thinking that they would never be able to operate any sort of vehicle. We have given a young child an opportunity to participate in recess activities where they previously had to sit out, and we give two families of active cyclists opportunities to go on long trail rides after thinking they could never do this again. Many clients have come back to campus year-after-year with their bikes for the following year’s handoff.
Challenges that we have faced include: (1) is formal assessment to really understand the impact for students and for community members, and (2) differences in maturity of students in a required course and how to nurture students students through the required personal growth to be successful.
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