Development of global competencies through humanitarian engineering experiences

Andrea Goncher, Joshua Devitt

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paperpeer-review


Context: Engineering graduates need to be prepared and empowered to undertake sustainability challenges and other global issues (Brown, Price, Turner, and Colley, 2016). Understanding the socio-environmental impacts of engineering design are critical to sustainable engineering practice. Engineers, especially engineering students, can have the tendency to rush into defining solutions early in the design process without considering the ethical and sustainability issues in design and decision-making processes. EWB Australia has developed student programs, i.e. EWB Annual Challenge and EWB Design Summit, that are designed to embed people-centred approaches into engineering, and help to prepare graduates for a world where they will face increasingly complex sustainability issues)

Purpose: This study examines how students' perspectives on humanitarian engineering and global sustainability competencies develop based on their humanitarian engineering experiences.

Approach: Students participated in the EWB Australia Annual Challenge in their first year of university study, and EWB Australia Design Summit in the second year of the engineering course. We interviewed students before and after their humanitarian engineering experiences, based on the EWB Design Summit in Cambodia. Pre- and post- student interviews on the EWB Australia Design Summit experience were conducted and analysed.

Results: Participants found that their immersion in the community and engaging with the community members resulted in a more empathetic approach to design, that they were able to communicate in more challenging environments, and that they gained a global perspective on the impacts of engineering design.

Conclusions: Exposure and participation in humanitarian engineering experiences, like the EWB Australia programs, help students to realise that engineers operate in a holistic society and consider social factors that affect design. Facilitating students in these experiences will help to develop global competencies, by considering the social, environmental, and economic impacts of their designs, and improve their capacity to be a more well-rounded and global engineer.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 28th Annual conference of the Australasian association for engineering education
EditorsNazmul Huda, David Inglis, Nicholas Tse, Graham Town
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherAustralasian Association for Engineering Education
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9780646980263
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2017
Event28th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education: AAEE 2017 - Novotel Manly Pacific, Manly Beach, Australia
Duration: 10 Dec 201713 Dec 2017 (Conference website);res=IELENG;isbn=9780646980263 (Conference proceedings)


Conference28th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education
Abbreviated titleIntegrated Engineering
CityManly Beach
OtherThe theme of the 28th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE 2017) was "Integrated Engineering". It refers to the combination of theory and practice that is characteristic of engineering training, and encompasses more than the well-balanced set of technical skills and professional attributes expected in modern engineering graduates. The theme also refers to the need to train engineers who are willing and able to share responsibility for guiding the world in which they live through the major challenges facing society in the 21st century.
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