With the growth of student interest in humanitarian engineering development projects, a critical assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of this type of work is crucial to success. While a number of models exist for joining development with technical expertise in humanitarian engineering projects, this paper focuses on the experiences of students working on a program in Peru within the Greater Austin Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB)-USA. This program is a unique EWB-USA program that builds on ongoing academic research in the Peruvian Andes at the University of Texas at Austin and regional efforts by The Mountain Institute to mitigate the effects of climate change on Peruvian communities that need technical solutions to water issues. We contrast the benefits and struggles of pursuing a student-led initiative with a regional scope. Specifically, this case study shares how the roles of partnerships between universities, private sector, government, and nongovernmental organizations create challenges and opportunities for a student-led humanitarian engineering program. The key challenges identified are (1) effectual use of U.S. team members, (2) building trust and open communication with in-country partners, and (3) understanding community dynamics and adapting projects to their local context. We present how development of a ‘non-traditional engineering classroom’ framework can serve as a proactive means for facilitating effective knowledge transfer, critical reflection, and service-learning to improve project outcomes.
Chisolm, R., Gall, E. T., Read, L., & Salas, F. R. (2014). Lessons from a student-led development project in Peru: Aligning technical and educational perspectives. International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering, Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship, 525–539. https://doi.org/10.24908/ijsle.v0i0.5567