One Day's Pay: ITL Program Focuses on Altruistic Engineering

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The innovative "One Day's Pay" program from the ITL (Integrated Teaching and Learning) program at CU-Boulder will emphasize the power of altruistic engineering.
The innovative "One Day's Pay" program from the ITL (Integrated Teaching and Learning) program at CU-Boulder will emphasize the power of altruistic engineering.
The innovative "One Day's Pay" program from the ITL (Integrated Teaching and Learning) program at CU-Boulder will emphasize the power of altruistic engineering.

Integrated Teaching and Learning (ITL) will launch a new program this summer that will combine all the elements that have made ITL a nationally recognized engineering education leader in hands-on design, service learning, and retention of underrepresented students.

Funded with a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, ITL's innovative One Day's Pay program will involve students in community-based projects that create affordable innovations for people in need.

The program also may set the stage for establishing a new PhD program at CU-Boulder in the emerging field of engineering education, which prepares students for careers in engineering policy, educational research, and faculty positions.

One Day's Pay was developed by Derek Reamon and Jackie Sullivan, co-directors of ITL, Brian Argrow, associate dean for education, Daria Kotys-Schwartz, mechanical engineering instructor, and Malinda Zarske, ITL K16 Engineering Education coordinator.

"Our goal for this project is to serve our communities and provide engineering expertise to people who otherwise don't have the connection to get help for their problem," says Reamon. "We'd like to find cases where there is the possibility to make multiple versions to help more people with similar needs."

Similar to Engineers Without Borders, which implements sustainable engineering projects in developing communities worldwide, One Day's Pay will provide novel and reasonably priced engineering solutions for low-income residents in rural and urban areas of Colorado. The hope is that the altruistic solutions developed by CU students will improve clients' quality of life or provide tools and solutions that might allow them to earn more money and attain a higher standard of living, all at a cost that's less than a day's pay to produce.

Zarske and Lauren Cooper, who will be working with engineering undergraduates in One Day's Pay, are participating in the project because they understand the impor-tance of providing undergraduate students with opportunities to discover how engineering can directly benefit society.

"The way we teach students is directly related to the manner in which those students will practice engineering," says Cooper, an engineer at the International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology. "To make a positive impact in a global society, our students need to be exposed to real-world challenges. Engineering is less about word problems and textbooks and more about linking people with tools and solutions to help them achieve a better quality of life."

In the process, Zarske and Cooper want to learn how altruistic engineering affects a diverse group of students and how to better prepare engineering students to meet the needs of a changing society. The ITL's research already has shown that student involvement in hands-on design projects leads to greater retention in engineering, especially among women and underrepresented minorities.

Based on the concept that students learn best by tackling real-world problems, One Day's Pay design activities will be integrated into the college's First Year Engineering Projects course as well as some sophomore-, junior-, and senior-level classes. Each of the classes will choose a project and will work with clients to provide a solution to the clients' problems and build a prototype.

An example of a project that students might encounter in the One Day's Pay project (already undertaken in another class) is a custom-built wheelchair for a paraplegic client who trains horses. Students designed a wheelchair with larger wheels better suited for rolling across soft or uneven ground and a lift that allows the client to reach the horse's head and back.

"We think there are plenty of people in Colorado who could use solutions such as this," says Reamon. "If students do altruistic projects that are of direct benefit to people, those are better projects and in particular those are better projects for attracting underrepresented minority students to engineering."

Once projects are established for One Day's Pay, middle and high school students also will be engaged through the Engineering K12 fellows teaching in their classrooms.

"Engineering doesn't have to always be about huge projects," says Zarske, who has a master's degree in civil and environmental engineering. "You have to be really creative as an engineer to figure out solutions that can be replicable with one day's pay. The project focuses on altruistic engineering. We'll be using that as a scaffold for inspiring an understanding in students of how engineering can help others and shape the world around them."

CUE: Academic Program: 
Integrated Teaching & Learning (ITL) Program

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