"Real outreach experiences in engineering": Merging service - learning and design in a first-year engineering course

Christopher Williams, Richard Goff, Janis Terpenny, Jenny Lo, Tamara Knott, Karen Gilbert

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The instructors of the first-year engineering course at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University are faced each year with the challenge of providing a meaningful, appropriate, and valuable project experience that supports learning and fosters interest about engineering design. While past projects have been suitable for achieving basic learning outcomes, the speculative nature of these projects has not provided opportunities for student learning on broader topics such as working with a customer, identifying customer requirements, framing an open-ended design problem, and most importantly, identifying their role as an engineer in the world at large. In the spring semester of 2008, the instructors of "Exploration of Engineering Design" explored the use of a project set in the context of service learning as a means of achieving these broader learning objectives while still meeting the course learning outcomes for engineering design. The ROXIE Program (an acronym for "Real Outreach eXperiences In Engineering") was born from this effort. With the aid of the campus's Service Learning Center, 179 teams (composed of 4-6 students each) were paired with non-profit community organizations. The student teams acted as "Systems Design Consultants" and were instructed to "serve and improve" the community through engineering design. Specifically, the teams were tasked with (i) performing an act of service for the community organization, (ii) meeting with the community organization's leader to identify a design problem that needed to be solved, and finally, (iii) proposing a solution to the identified problem by following the design method taught in class. In this paper, the authors will describe the rationale, pedagogical choices, and administrative tasks involved in providing a design-related service learning experience for first-year students on such a large scale. Excerpts from students' reflection essays are presented as anecdotal evidence that the proposed program assisted students in achieving the course objectives and learning outcomes. ® American Society for Engineering Education, 2009.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2009
Event2009 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Austin, TX, United States
Duration: Jun 14 2009Jun 17 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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