2022 First-Year Engineering Experience

An International Design Project for First Year Engineering Students at Multiple U.S. Institutions

Presented at Technical Session M5C

Multiple U.S. institutions of higher education are participating in an international design challenge aimed at first- and second-year engineering students. This challenge has been operating for many years through Engineers Without Borders (EWB) organizations in Australia and the United Kingdom (UK). Beginning in 2019, EWB organizations in South Africa, the UK and USA partnered to develop a design challenge and run the associated competition in each of the nations. In the 2020-2021 academic year, five U.S. universities participated in the program and EWB-USA competition. During the 2021-2022 academic year, a total of five schools were involved. In this paper, we give an overview of the program and describe how the schools implemented this design challenge. Several different approaches for the design challenge are described as each school integrated the program into their existing curriculum. In addition, each school describes the motivation for participating in the program and how it fits into their curriculum.

The program, Engineering for People Design Challenge, comprises a collaboration between a community, a local non-governmental organization (NGO), and EWB-UK, EWB-South Africa. Collaboratively, a team develops an extensive design brief that includes a project description—identifying 8 design areas focused on local community needs—along with cultural background on the community. Additional resources provide guidance for instructors and students on how to proceed with the design process and how marking criteria are used to assess the projects. Each participating school is then allowed to submit five top projects to the international competition. An international panel of judges then chooses the top schools to participate in each nation’s Grand Finals based on the project submissions, which can take the form of a design report or video and poster. The top ten teams are selected for the Grand Finals and showcase their project through an idea pitch in front of judges.

The Engineering for People Design Challenge was devised to provide engineering students with an opportunity to practice their skills and address global issues as a means to developing globally responsible engineers. The benefits of this program to our first-year engineering programs are described in this paper. These include meeting accreditation requirements, motivating engineering students—especially women—who seek help- or social-oriented careers, and increasing engineering self-identity. The primary goal of the paper is to inform more faculty about this program, and encourage widespread participation in the U.S.

  1. Dr. Matt Gordon P.E. University of Denver [biography]
  2. Dr. Carlo Salvinelli University of Colorado Boulder [biography]
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