Service Learning
A teaching tool connecting community and classroom

Professional Experience Programme - Engineering for Humanity

Professional Experience Programme - Engineering for Humanity

Course Director: Dr. Jamie Goggins
Course Title
: BE in Civil Engineering/ BE in Energy Systems Engineering/ BSc in Project & Construction Management
Subject:
Professional Experience Programme - Engineering for Humanity
Year
: 3rd Year and 4th Year
Participants
: 4 - 8 students
Hours
: 16 Weeks
Credits
: 2 ECTS
Length
: 16 Weeks
Community Partners
: Alan Kerins Projects; Kaoma Community, Zambia; Foundation Nepal.

In April 2009, the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUIG initiated a pilot programme with the Alan Kerins Projects to give our undergraduate students the opportunity to work in developing countries as part of their academic courses through the Professional Engineering Programme (PEP). This was expanded in 2011, where another partnership was established with Foundation Nepal allowing our students to complete their work placement in a remote region of Nepal called Humla. The students apply for these opportunities and have to undertaken a competitive process to get selected, including a formal interview.

The project was divided in three phases - 7 weeks on campus completing initial training, followed by 8 weeks in Zambia or Nepal and then the students complete their final year project on a related topic to their placement. This project and some of the other initiatives in the College of Engineering & Informatics indicate potential areas where ethical, globally aware, civically engaged and socially responsible engineering education can flourish. Furthermore, they have led to a number of postgraduate research projects being undertaken in NUI Galway. One of our researchers, Declan Gavigan, recently received an award for the Best Young Engineer's paper at the annual peer-reviewed International Conference of the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE)) in Egypt. NUI Galway is actively seeking funding to allow them to implement further related research projects.

Students are chosen for this programme based on a competitive interview process. Students receive a conditional offer for a position on a programme provided that they fulfil all the requirements set out. They must complete pre-departure training and preparation and submit the signed pre-departure form containing information such as contact details, travel itinerary, health insurance, pre departure medical examination, immunizations received, pre-departure training, and so on. This form has been adapted from that developed by Dr. Dympna Casey in the School of Nursing & Midwifery at NUIG.

There are a number of undergraduate degree programmes in NUI Galway during which students work in developing countries and obtain credits towards their degree. Dr. Jamie Goggins, College of Engineering & Informatics, has worked with the colleagues in the School of Medicine, School of Nursing and Midwifery, CKI and the International Office to introduce this year multidisciplinary pre-departure training in NUI Galway for these students. Further specific technical training is given to students partaking in the elective programme entitled ‘Engineering for Humanity' prior to working in the field in developing countries. These students are based on campus in NUI Galway for up to eight weeks prior to working in the field. The students undertake laboratory-based work and research projects, as well as receiving courses on cultural awareness, security, child protection, and issues in global development. Benefits of the pilot programme have been highlighted by Dr. Goggins in academic publications.

Examples of tangible outputs from the projects were:

QUOTE FROM COMMUNITY PARTNER:

"On behalf of AKP here in Zambia, I just wanted to email you regarding the recent placement of students: Vincent, Peter, Joe and Alex, here in Kaoma, Zambia. I will be honest in stating that I was a little apprehensive at the thought the students visit as I assumed It would add to my already extensive work load! To the contrary, It was a true pleasure working with such an eager and dedicated group. They approached each task with enthusiasm, energy, a willingness to learn and a cultural sensitivity which was exemplary. Their presence here was more than beneficial to AKP's project work in Kaoma and Mongu and I look forward to reading their final report. Apart from their research and project work, each member of the group immersed themselves fully in the local culture. I believe the time they spent with the Cheshire Home Children and the locals, bridged the gap between our two countries and its people and I believe both parties are the better for it.

Please pass on the sincere thanks to all of them from myself, Michelle and the lives of the people of Koama they have touched.", Joseph McLean, Engineer, Alan Kerins Projects, Kaoma, Zambia.

QUOTE FROM A STUDENT:

"For me it wasn't just a college assignment, going to Zambia changed everything. Seeing the dreadful quality of homes, contrasted against the quality of Stabilised Soil Blocks-built homes was alarming. The results of our short weeks in Zambia were the design of a water system for the orphanage in Kaoma, the drawing of plans for the construction of new buildings in Mongu, the recommendation of a soil extraction site for the soil blocks and research into industrial and agricultural by-products to further reduce costs for the material. Back in NUI Galway for my final year, we continued the research by looking at the incorporation of the by-products by analysing the strength of the blocks, resulting in the production of a thesis and reports of recommendations. However, for me the greatest consequence was the flirtation with service learning and the development of an appreciation of the impact that civic engagement within education can have. I was bitten by the volunteering bug" Richard Manton, current PhD student in Engineering and one of the first students who undertook the placement in Zambia through the ‘Engineering for Humanity' programme.

QUOTE FROM A STUDENT:

"When thinking of two months of engineering work in a developing country for AKP and Engineering for Humanity, one can create an idea of what it is going to be like in your head. This idea is quickly swiped from your thoughts upon arrival. The reality is that the children in both Judith House and Boystown have such an influence on your opinion and ideas of disadvantaged children that you come away much the wiser person. The engineering side of things is only half of the work you end up doing. However, that work is intense and important. It is work that you know is needed and how it is needed for the community. Unlike a great deal of Irish placements, it is broad enough to gain experience in all sorts of engineering disciplines and with four students working on it, each area can be designated and studied in great detail by one student (or more if the area is large). Before coming out to Kaoma, the group had a concern that the engineering experience they would gain would not be applicable to an Irish context. However, despite it almost being on the opposite side of the earth, the work was nearly always related back to how things are done in Ireland. The fact that Joe McLean was the group's mentor, and had a great deal of experience in engineering in Ireland, was another great factor for learning typical Irish engineering features." Vincent Hurley, final year Energy Systems Engineering student, who undertook the ‘Engineering in Humanity' programme in 2012.