Abstract: Humanitarian Engineering is the application of engineering research and work to directly benefit marginalized people. Marginalization in this case can be defined as applying to people who lack the capital to acquire a basic place in society due to a host of reasons. Some common examples of the forces that drive people into a marginalized position include poverty, lack of local language competency, low education attainment opportunity, health issues, and environmental structure related to region, government policies, class systems, etc. humanitarian engineering is designing to apply engineering knowledge to directly benefit and improve the position and capacity of these marginalized people. In general, humanitarian engineering focuses on appropriate technologies using locally sourced available resources that are affordable and sustainable. It is participatory in nature and often involves simple solutions to solve problems related to basic needs (i.e. clean water, air, sanitation, heat, shelter etc.). As such, training for one who participates in humanitarian engineering incorporates history, politics, economics, sociology, language, as well as rigorous engineering basics.
The nature of humanitarian engineering projects offer a unique opportunity to teach students through an approach that integrates theory with a practical hands-on experience. By creating a learning environment through helping marginalized communities, students are challenged with problems that enhance their critical thinking ability and help them acquire new technical skills. Moreover, the service learning aspect of these projects contribute to students walking away from the experience with a bigger picture and awareness of the world and how they can contribute to solving some of humanity’s challenges.
This presentation will focus on the development and introduction of humanitarian engineering curriculum to an existing engineering technology program. Specifically, it will highlight three innovations which were integrated into the engineering technology program at Metropolitan State University of Denver:
- The development of a course titled “Humanitarian Engineering” whose first edition took students abroad to do a community development project in Costa Rica.
- The integrating of a projects class with focus on an engineering project which had students design, construct, test and implement soda-can solar furnaces for a local marginalized community in Denver
- The creation of a humanitarian engineering student club and how that club is increasing student involvement in undergraduate research projects and its role in service learning.
Bio: Aaron Brown is an assistant professor and department coordinator at Metropolitan State University of Denver in the Department of Mechanical Engineering Technology. He previously worked in the aerospace industry on such projects as the Mars Science Laboratory (a.k.a., "Curiosity") Descent Brake, Hubble Robotics Mission, and Global Precipitation Measurement Device Project (GMI). He has developed coursework in the realm of Humanitarian Engineering and appropriate design and is a PhD candidate in the study of sustainable community development. His current research recently was featured on NPR, the Denver Post and earned him the title "Community Game Changer of the Month" from CBS Denver. Previous to his engineering and academic career, Aaron Brown raced bicycles professionally and claims to have been “the worst pro in America.”
Host: Prof. Bradley Paden