Service-learning in engineering education and heritage preservation

TitleService-learning in engineering education and heritage preservation
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsDewoolkar, MM, Porter, D, Hayden, NJ
Journal International Journal of Architectural Heritage Conservation, Analysis and Restoration
Date Published2011

Many communities and nonprofit organizations in the United States grapple with the reuse of publicly owned buildings and infrastructure from the 19th and early 20th centuries that have become landmarks in their communities. Often these communities or organizations do not have adequate resources (technical expertise, funding) for even preliminary engineering services. Engineering programs at universities can assist these communities by providing engineering expertise through service-learning (SL) projects, at the same time providing engineering students exposure to the field of heritage preservation and to important preservation engineering issues. This article presents SL case studies at the University of Vermont (UVM) as examples of this type of collaboration. Benefits, challenges, and SL assessment results are included. For the past 4 years, as part of a National Science Foundation Department Level Reform (NSF DLR) grant, civil and environmental engineering students at UVM have worked on multiple SL projects with local communities throughout their 4-year program. In many cases, these SL projects have involved historic structures. Although not an original emphasis of the DLR grant, heritage preservation is becoming a component of the UVM reform efforts, such that in 2010 this topic began to be formally included in both the first-year introductory engineering course and senior capstone design course. The SL approach was found to be effective in meeting education goals of the civil and environmental engineering programs and their accreditation requirements as well as providing meaningful service to the local communities caring for historic structures and sites. Both students and faculty gained exposure to and understanding of preservation engineering topics, as well as networking with the heritage preservation community in Vermont and elsewhere. Incorporating heritage preservation issues into engineering programs through SL projects may prove beneficial at other institutions.

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