An Introductory Course with a Humanitarian Engineering Context

An Introductory Course with a Humanitarian Engineering Context

A. Shekar, M. Tunnicliffe (2017).  An Introductory Course with a Humanitarian Engineering Context. 11.

The Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Design Challenge is an excellent example of how universities from across the globe enable students to engage with humanitarian engineering. Massey University has been utilising the EWB Design Challenge as a framework to introduce engineering practice to first year students, which have led to our teams’ winning multiple regional and international prizes.

This article is to share our experience of the design and teaching of this first year course and provide engineering educators with a successful example of how students learn about engineering practice in product, process, and system building, as well as their personal and interpersonal skills. We will highlight how, by using a humanitarian engineering context, we embed CDIO thinking. Our case study will also illustrate how we project manage this process using Stage-Gate (Cooper, 2008); support students to conduct reflective practice by using logbooks (Osgood, 2013); include practicing engineers as consultants; and provide detailed assessment guidelines and rubric examples to guide the students through the myriad of challenges exposed during engineering practice.

This case study shows that the implementation of the EWB Design Challenge has been successful in providing a useful framework to introduce engineering practice. It is particularly effective in exposing students to a number of ethically-driven social competencies required for the global engineer. It is hoped that by sharing our experience of operating this course that engineering faculty may take on-board some of our learning and assessment practices to improve an introductory design project at their institution.

References Cooper, R. G. (2008). Perspective: The Stage-Gate® Idea-to-Launch Process—Update, What's New, and NexGen Systems*. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 25: 213–232. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5885.2008.00296.x

Osgood, Libby (2013). Effective Use of Logbooks in Engineering Education: Enhancing Communication through Short Design Activities. Teaching Innovation Projects: Vol. 3: Iss. 1, Article 4. Available at:

Proceedings of the 13th International CDIO Conference in Calgary, Canada, June 18-22 2017

Authors (New): 
Aruna Shekar
Mark Tunnicliffe
Massey University, New Zealand
Humanitarian engineering
Project-Based Learning
CDIO standard 4
CDIO Standard 8
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Shekar, A., & Drain, A. (2016). Community engineering: raising awareness, skills and knowledge to contribute towards sustainable development. International Journal of Mechanical Engineering Education, 44(4), 272-283.: 
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Worldwide CDIO Initiative Standards, CDIO Standards, January 2004 <> accessed 16 January 2017.: 
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