The devastation caused by recent natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes, has increased awareness regarding the importance of providing interdisciplinary solutions to complex infrastructure challenges. In October 2018, the University of Puerto Rico received a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) collaborative award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop an integrated curriculum on resilient and sustainable infrastructure. The project titled “Resilient Infrastructure and Sustainability Education – Undergraduate Program (RISE-UP) aims to educate future environmental designers and engineers to design and build a more resilient and sustainable infrastructure for Puerto Rico.
This paper presents the design, initial implementation, and assessment of a curriculum encompassing synergistic interactions among these four domains: integrated project delivery, user-centered design, interdisciplinary problem-solving, and sustainability and resiliency. The project seeks to foster interdisciplinary problem-solving skills involving architects, engineers and construction managers, in order to better prepare them to face and provide solutions to minimize the impact of extreme natural environment events on infrastructure.
The new curriculum stresses on problem-settings, the role that participants have on defining the characteristics of the problems that have to be solved, learning in action, reflecting on the process, and communication between the different stakeholders. This multisite and interdisciplinary program provides students with the necessary support, knowledge, and skills necessary to design and build resilient and sustainable infrastructure. This instructional endeavor consists of four courses designed to reduce gradually the difference between what students are able to accomplish with support structures and what students are able to accomplish on their own. To maximize and enhance the educational experience, the program blends a technology-infused classroom learning with broad co-curricular opportunities such as site visits, undergraduate research, and internships. As students advance in the program, they will be exposed and required to perform increasingly complex tasks.
During the first year of the program, the following outcomes were achieved: 1) implementation of the faculty teamwork process to develop courses and analyze cases from an interdisciplinary perspective, 2) development and approval of an interdisciplinary curriculum on resilient and sustainable infrastructure, 3) development of case studies on situations associated with disaster and interdisciplinary responses, 4) development of a case study database, 5) establishment of an Advisory Board with government agency representatives and faculty, and 6) recruitment and enrollment of 30 students as the first RISE-UP cohort. In summary, the body of knowledge acquired from this project can serve as a model that can be replicated to develop and enhance academic programs at other institutions.
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