Fall 2022, 3 credits, In Person

T/Th 11:00am-12:15pm, CASE E340

Instructor: Associate Professor Evan Thomas and Teaching Assistant Professor Carlo Salvinelli SEEC C253

Guest Facilitators: Dr. Laura MacDonald, Dr. Gunars Platais

Course Description

What is Global Engineering?

The Engineer’s role in addressing global poverty challenges has often been confined to village and community-scale interventions, product design and development, or large-scale infrastructure design and construction. Yet despite fifty years of these approaches, over half the world’s population still lives on less than $5.50 a day, the global burden of disease in low-income countries is overwhelmingly attributable to environmental health contaminants, and climate change is already negatively affecting people in developing countries. The conventional community, product or infrastructure focuses of development engineering are insufficient to address these global drivers that perpetuate poverty.

Engineers must become activists and advocates, leveraging our professional skills and capacity to generate evidence and positive impact toward rectifying inequalities. Engineers must reject the ahistorical, technocratic and neo-colonial conceit that poverty can be solved through products or projects, or on a community scale that requires the poorest people to overcome historical and structural inequalities and injustices.

The emerging field of Global Engineering can work to identify and address these structural injustices. Global Engineering should be concerned with the unequal and unjust distribution of access to basic services such as water, sanitation, energy, food, transportation and shelter, and place an emphasis on identifying the drivers, determinants and solutions favoring equitable access. Technology development and validation, data collection and impact evaluation can contribute to evidence-based influence on policies and practice.

Global Engineering envisions a world in which everyone has safe water, sanitation, energy, food, shelterand infrastructure, and can live in health, dignity, and prosperity.

The Mortenson Center in Global Engineering

The Mortenson Center at the University of Colorado Boulder promotes the role and skills of engineers inidentifying and addressing the unequal and unjust distribution of access to basic services such as water,sanitation, energy, food, transportation and shelter, and place an emphasis on identifying the drivers,determinants and solutions favoring equitable access.

Though our curriculum we:

  1. Introduce students to the historical causes and present conditions of global inequality, and identifythe opportunities and limitations of professional engineering engagement.
  2. Empower students and working professionals to engage in a historically contextualized, anti-imperialcontribution to global engineering.
  3. Identify and promote the relevance and role of the engineering profession in supporting the reductionof poverty and increasing prosperity.

The Global Engineering Residential Academic Program

Students graduating with the Mortenson Center Global Engineering Minor or enrolled in the GlobalEngineering Residential Academic Program will be able to demonstrate the following:

Expectation of Competence

  • Knowledge of historical and contemporary context of global inequalities and global developmentpoverty alleviation policies, programs, institutions, and social movements.
  • Capacity to engage in applying some engineering skills toward global development
  • Team Work

Expectation of Exposure

  • Identification of technical interventions
  • Field Readiness
  • Cultural Sensitivity
  • Impact Evaluation
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Global Health

Learning Objectives

  1. Students will identify the geopolitical and historical contexts of health and socioeconomic disparities within and between countries.
  2. Students will describe global poverty reduction efforts, including historical and present-day programs, frameworks, funding agencies, and implementations.
  3. Students will describe and critique technical interventions promoted to address water, sanitation, hygiene, energy, infrastructure, shelter, agricultural, and evaluation needs.
  4. Students will design and assess programmatic Theory of Change and evaluation frameworks for global development interventions.
  5. Students will criticize the role of professionals, including engineers, in poverty action, including identifying and reducing colonial, imperial and otherwise unjust practices in our professional fields.

Textbook and Materials

  • Hickel, Jason, "The Divide" - Required
  • Thomas, Evan "The Global Engineers" - Optional, PDF version provided through Canvas
  • All other readings provided digitally in Canvas


Attendance (Each class meeting is 1% of final grade, 30% total)

Attendance is required.

In-Class and Canvas-based Discussion (Graded as pass / fail / partial credit, 30% of total)

Weekly in-class and Canvas-based discussions will evaluate classroom and reading based learning, andfacilitate classroom discussions.

For CVEN 4830 - Facilitation and leadership of group projects and discussions (10% of total)

Upper division students will serve as the project managers for the “Engineering for People Design Challenge” – these students will lead teams of lower division students in creating and presenting an engineering solution to a global development challenge. In particular, the upper division students will be responsible for training the lower division students in the project design cycle, and for leading the development of the functional requirements, product benchmarks, and identification of design concepts.The upper division students will lead the deliverables and presentations associated with preliminary design review and critical design review.

The upper division students will have a higher expectation of competence for the following learning outcomes: Identification of historical context, technical interventions, and field readiness. These outcomes will be measured differentially for the upper division students through additional reading assignments, reflections, and in-class presentations including upper division students facilitating classroom discussions. In particular, the upper division students will be assigned at least 1-2 journal articles per week in addition to the lower division reading assignments, and the upper division students will be responsible for graded weekly reflection assignments.

The upper division students will each, at least twice in the semester, be responsible for leading a reading facilitation, as a graded assignment. Students will facilitate discussion for approximately an hour each session. Students will be encouraged to be creative in facilitation (i.e., welcome to incorporate additional materials, case studies, or formats to facilitate conversation), and will be required to have five to ten substantive questions to prompt discussion.

For CVEN 2837 - Seminar Attendance and Reflection (Graded as pass / fail / partial credit, each are 2% of final grade, 10% total)

The Mortenson Center in Global Engineering Undergraduate Program in Kittredge Central will host guest lectures and seminars most weeks. Attendance and submission of a reflection is required for at least 5 sessions.

Design Challenge Group Project (20% of total)

The Design Challenge will be conducted in groups.

Final Assignment (20% of total)

For your final assignment, you will develop a "Theory of Change" for a technology intervention of your choosing. To tackle this assignment:
1 - Review the Demand Magazine archive, posted in Canvas. From these magazines, or from another(credible) source you identify, pick a case study where a technology was combined with an interventiontargeting a poverty reduction or health improvement in a low/middle income setting.
2 - Review the Theory of Change presentation from JPAL on Theories of Change.
3 - Develop a Theory of Change for your chosen case study using the template provided in the modulefrom IFRC.
4 - Submit!

Late Policy

Late assignments will generally not be accepted. I may agree to make exceptions to this policy on a verylimited basis, provided that the reason is very compelling and provided that you ask in advance.


There will be no exams in this course.