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Humanitarian Engineering open house

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Written by Ramiro Rodriguez

Posted on 09 February 2014

The Humanitarian Engineering Program held an open house to discuss changes to the curriculum, a refocus of their efforts, introduce their faculty and staff, and announce scholarship and internship opportunities. The event was centered around the programs transition, as program director Dr. Juan Lucena out it, "from compassionate help to serving sustainable community development". The purpose behind this revamping is to transition from a unilateral model of community development where engineering students try to directly solve the problems of a faraway community that has very little input on the projects in mind to a system where Non-Governmental Organizations mediate between the two so that communities can help define their problems and have that be presented to engineers.

As of Fall 2014, the Humanitarian Engineering minor is now an eighteen credit program divided into a three credit introductory course: LAIS 377 - Engineering & Sustainable Community Development, six credits from the topic of Community Culture and Social Justice, six credits from the topic of Engineering by Doing, and a capstone course. Community Culture and Social Justice comes in the form of six three-credit LAIS course which include: Service Learning, Cultural Anthropology, Corporate Social Responsibility, Engineering Culture in the Developing World, Engineering and Social Justice, and Energy and Society. Engineering by Doing is made up of the two three-credit courses Human-Centered Problem Definition and Human-Centered Design. The capstone will be a senior design project centered around community development or assistive technology for people with disabilities for students of the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences or CEEN 477 - Sustainable Engineer Design for students that are not under the CECS.

A third of the credits for the minor are now coming from Community Culture and Social Justice, two out of six LAIS courses designed to explore the interactions between society and engineering including the new course, LAIS 430 - Corporate Social Responsibility. Corporate Social Responsibility is an exploration of the idea of corporate social responsibility as the relationship between engineering firms and communities local to their projects with a focus on the extractive industries. The class aims to teach how to access opportunities for participation in corporate social responsibility as well as how to create a strategy for community engagement.

Engineering by Doing is made up of two EGGN courses centered around teach how to design around people as well as how to access where problems are coming from to better tailor human-centered solutions. EGGN 301 - Human Centered Problem Definitions is designed to be a practical exploration of how to access how things considered to be problems or solutions for engineering are those things when designing with people and communities in mind through practical lab methods as well as exercises made to teach empathy with people projects are designed for. EGGN 401 - Projects for People is a class made to bridge the techniques learned in Human Centered Problem Definitions with technical skills to address problems brought to the class by community partners.

The Humanitarian Engineering Program encourages membership in Engineers Without Borders/Bridges to Prosperity for its students to put to practice the sustainable community development techniques learned within the program for the betterment of communities both locally and abroad. The student run organization is devoted to sustainable community development through the process of designing and assembling bridges for communities in need.

The possibility of needing to take an additional semester at Mines because of taking a minor exists, however, the costs can be mitigated by a newly announced scholarship from the Shultz Family Leadership in Humanitarian Engineering Fund. The scholarship is for students involved with the humanitarian engineering program and wish to explore connections to humanitarian engineering in the extractive industries. For a student to be eligible for the scholarship, they must: have a minimum 3.0 GPA; be enrolled in the Humanitarian Engineering program; have taken one or more of the following: Engineering and Sustainable Community Design, Engineering and Social Justice, Projects for People, or Human-centered Problem Definition by the end of Spring 2014; register to take Corporate Social Responsibility in Fall 2014; and submit an essay in response to two prompts on an interest in humanitarian engineering or linking humanitarian engineering to the extractive industries. The scholarship will be officially announced in March of 2014, with selection occurring during the Summer of 2014, and funding in the form of $8000 will be made available for the Fall 2014 semester.

Students wanting to sign up for the humanitarian engineering minor or area of special interest can start the process by meeting with program director Dr. Juan Lucena to map the minor and fill out the minor declaration form. Further information on the program and contact information can be found at humanitarian.mines.edu.