There is a national need for an increased quantity of engineers. In addition to pure quantity, there are calls for a more diverse engineering population capable of addressing increasingly complex and global future challenges. Many acknowledge that current institutionalized models of education may not be filling these needs and that extracurricular experiences may recruit and retain diverse engineers while supplementing traditional education. This research investigates the internationally-focused and largely unstudied organization, Engineers Without Borders (EWB-USA), to understand members’ perceptions of what an engineer needs to know, what gaps they experience in their education, and what gains they experience from their membership in EWB-USA. Responses to open-ended questions were collected from 505 members at five geographically spread regional EWB-USA workshops. These responses were analyzed for the total population and disaggregated for gender and professional status. The most common gains members identified were a global perspective, relationships, experience and application, and project management skills, which address both the future needs of the profession and more personal connections to the engineering field. In comparisons, females showed gains previously identified as important for engineering persistence, and student participants emphasized the engineering experience they gained through the organization. This large-scale study provides empirical evidence for past anecdotal indications that EWB-USA-like experiences can supplement existing curricula to help generate engineers of the future.

Litchfield, K., and Javernick-Will, A. (2014). “Investigating Gains from EWB-USA Involvement.” Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, 140 (1), 04013008. doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)EI.1943-5541.0000181