Math, physics and chemistry are a common language for engineers around the world, yet engineers in different countries approach similar challenges in different ways. Engineering in a Global/Societal Context (ENG290), a three-week summer course, teaches the importance of social context, political history and economies in solving engineering problems abroad.
"In Engineering 290, our students experience firsthand the need to think bigger than the American approach to problems," says Professor Jeff Evans, civil and environmental engineering, who co-founded the program in 2004.
To meet increasing student demand, Bucknell this year offered two sections: Sustainable Energy and Eco-Tourism in Costa Rica, and Foundation for Future Growth in a Middle-Emerging Economy in Argentina.
"Different students take away different ideas," says Evans, who co-led the Argentina section. "Some are affected by the poverty and start considering an engineering career in the developing world. Others begin to really understand that if you don't take into account whom you're serving and how you're serving them, then you're probably not making the right engineering decisions."
A mix of lectures by local professors and experts, on-site technical tours and touring excursions kept both groups in constant motion. Students came from a variety of engineering disciplines, which was a big advantage, says Professor David Cipoletti, mechanical engineering, who co-led the Costa Rica section. "They were able to help each other investigate and come to a better understanding of different aspects of engineering."
Luciana Sallas '14, a chemical engineering major, went to Argentina for the opportunity to learn more about economics. "It's pertinent to engineering, and made my education even more well rounded," she says.
Tara Wilk '15, who majors in civil and environmental engineering, appreciated the intense learning experience in Costa Rica. "It was really refreshing to have the professors challenge us beyond the textbook lessons and have time for deep discussion and reflection," she says. "I learned that in only three weeks, I can gain a wealth of knowledge."