Drawing upon non-engineering disciplines to research sustainability of engineered infrastructure in South America

Ann Perry Witmer, Keilin Jahnke

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The academy has evaluated and debated the merits of international service learning from the perspective of the student, but little research exists to assess the success and sustainability of an engineered infrastructure system over an extended period of time from a developing community's perspective. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) has implemented a new course that will exist for ten years and will bring together the College of Engineering, along with departments of Kinesiology and Community Health, Anthropology, Global Studies and Regional and Urban Planning, to collaboratively teach an undergraduate research-focused course elective targeted at evaluating baseline conditions preceding implementation of a new irrigation system for the indigenous community of Lumbisi, Ecuador. The course is NOT a capstone design course - rather its intent is to rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of engineering design practices serving the developing world. This paper will document the development of the course, the proposed instructional objectives and community outcomes, and the process of effectively engaging students in this work. The course was offered for the first time in Spring 2016, co-taught by faculty from all five departments, plus an additional collaborator in the College of Engineering at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) in Ecuador. All six educational units share knowledge and resources, both in the classroom and via a virtual meeting space, which also is accessible by the community itself. While the research course will track the process of design, implementation, maintenance and modification of the irrigation system over the next ten years, students of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) UIUC Chapter and EWB USFQ will team with the community to devise an actual infrastructure design that meets both the needs and cultural constraints of the indigenous community. This innovative approach to cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural, and cross-organizational international service learning is expected to generate significant data regarding the factors that most strongly affect sustainability of an engineered infrastructure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Jun 26 2016
Externally publishedYes
Event123rd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Jun 26 2016Jun 29 2016


Other123rd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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