Humanitarian Engineering: Addressing the global influence of applied technology in engineering education
Miller, James Douglas
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The immensity of the social and (natural) environmental impacts that technologies have in today’s global context challenges the existing engineering education curricula. Observational research inspired the notion that the current engineering curricula is inadequately preparing engineers for their increasingly international roles. Observa- tional research was conducted in Morocco, Indonesia and Sri Lanka which highlighted the potential impact of engineering in addressing issues of marginalization. Perspectives from engineering industry and academia were also studied. This re- search conﬁrmed that the future landscape of engineering will require engineering education to focus more signiﬁcantly on non-technical skills and on providing inte- grated and interdisciplinary programs with an international focus. These studies also indicated that there is a need for engineers to both consider the circumstances of low-income communities and to reexamine the philosophies and pedagogy of current engineering programs. The perspectives of students was researched through forums and an engineering course. Five separate forums in April and May, 2006 were presented to engineering students at Queen’s University discuss and debate the idea of curricular reform. A module and pro ject that was based on a more holistic and socially conscious approach to engineering was incorporated into a ﬁrst year engineering course at Queen’s Uni- versity called APSC 190: Professional Engineering Skills. Both the forum and course used observational research methods and questionnaires to determine that Queen’s students were very interested a program with greater focus on social and environmen- tal issues in a global context. Humanitarian Engineering is a proposed program for Queen’s University’s Faculty of Applied Science. This program intends to address the evolving expectations of engineering education in order to respond to the demands of industry, academia, students and society. Humanitarian Engineering is proposed to be a Master’s program and a four-year undergraduate option that is taken collaboratively with the existing engineering disciplines, e.g. Civil, Mechanical, Chemical, etc. It will be built on the philosophies of humility, appreciation and cooperation and will best suit the needs of society if taught through the methodologies of participatory action research (PAR) and biomimicry.