In this planning visit the PI will lay the groundwork for future undergraduate engineering research projects in Ghana and Kenya. American undergraduate engineering students are usually exposed to engineering research and design experiences that draw upon the strong infrastructure of a developed, industrialized nation. Consistent power supply, abundant fuel, and the ready availability of replacement parts and skilled labor, for example, are often a given. The PI intends to offer students engineering research experiences in Ghana and Kenya, where personal resourcefulness, the ability to observe, infer, and deduce, and the ability to apply scientific fundamentals will be challenged and developed. The purpose of this planning trip is to identify African collaborators and particular engineering challenges appropriate for future undergraduate research projects; examples might include identifying design features of African structures that contribute to their ability to maintain a constant internal temperature, or identifying effective and decentralized methods for generating electrical power. In such projects students would enhance their education by deconstructing accepted engineering solutions into their core functions. In the course of reconstructing these functions using limited resources, the undergraduates would learn to respond to a set of engineering demands and specifications that are unique to the harsh environments found in the developing world. Students will be encouraged to adopt a minimalist approach to their design using fundamental physics, chemistry and mathematics as their tools, introducing and reinforcing the concept of sustainable engineering.

During this planning visit the PI will develop a program that will not only improve students' engineering skills via exposure to a new engineering milieu, but will also provide experience within a social and economic environment where individuals and societies have far fewer resources than in the developed world. Under such conditions, ecological and environmental awareness will likely take on a new importance as students consider engineered solutions in this context. Furthermore, the program being planned will give students the opportunity to work with African collaborators, from whom they can learn both about the culture of their host countries, as well as about a greater repertoire of responses to diverse engineering demands.

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Cooper Union
New York
United States
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