Service-Learning in the College of Engineering

By Kalon Goonetilleke, S-L Street Team

At Northeastern, there are many methods set in place so that engineering students can apply and enhance technical skills that they have learned in classrooms. A prime example of this would be the co-op program, where students gain experience by apply their skills to a job, be it coding a robot or 3D printing a project-specific CAD model. Then, there are other ways for students to get involved and apply their skills, such as engineering research, clubs, and a variety of other engineering related jobs.

For those especially interested in community service and volunteering, students can get involved with Service-Learning, where a course’s learning objectives are met whilst pursuing the needs of the community. This is similar to co-op in that service-learning students engage in hands-on experience. For example, one of the classes teaches the coding language ‘C++’, whilst teaching children (of ages 9 to 14) in Roxbury how to code lego robots. This addresses a community’s needs whilst students apply course concepts to a specific experience. It helps to solidify course content and material in the classroom.

Typically, volunteering and CSR have been the main focus in the CSSH community. However, at Northeastern there are valuable opportunities for students of all majors to get involved with the community. For the college of Engineering specifically, there are two long-standing Service-Learning projects at Northeastern, which are as follows:

GE 1501 and GE 1502  is a core requirement for all Engineering students, and is typically taken freshman year of the engineering undergraduate program. These two courses, titled ‘Cornerstone of Engineering 1 and 2’, respectively, comprise of an engaging and educational classroom experience. The course teaches technical skills such as basic CAD using SolidWorks and AutoCAD. GE 1501 and 1502 goes on to provide the necessary coding skill set (C++ and Arduino) for all engineers, regardless of what specific engineering major they are. This ensures that the first year engineers are equipped with a strong set of skills to pursue the engineering curriculum. In terms of Service-Learning, there are a variety of placement sites where students visit and serve in groups of 3-4. The sites vary widely from Roxbury Innovation Center to the Boys & Girls Club of Boston. The same groups apply both engineering concepts, as well as, programming skills in order to construct ‘sumo’ robots which are to fight against other teams.

One of the placement sites had grown so large that a new club was administered under ‘Roxbury Robotics’. The fact that a Service-Learning site could potentially grow into its own club with over 65 attending students shows that there is in fact potential for Service-Learning to grow within the field of Engineering at Northeastern.

Engineering Picture 1

Picture of Students at Robotics showcase.

EECE 2750 on the other hand is a smaller class taught by Professor Maleis. It offers students an opportunity to develop a proposal for a design project that uses engineering technologies to improve individuals with physical disabilities. For Service-Learning, students work with caregivers at local nursing homes and special education schools. A final project is due at the end of the class which applies the engineering technologies taught in lecture as well as findings from attending the Service-Learning site.

Service-Learning in the College of Engineering at Northeastern is emerging slowly, but is still making a dent with respect to giving back to the community, which gives so much to our University. This is supported by the fact that the College of Engineering even hosts its own Service-Learning EXPO apart from the main EXPO. This consists of a ‘sumo battle’, where students from all sites come together to battle out their robots and compete. These children can apply their knowledge and skills in real-time in this competition. Ultimately, Service-Learning at Northeastern is an academically rigorous experience. Students can engage in hands-on service to address community needs, learning through applying course concepts to their experiences, and reflecting on those experiences back in the classroom.Engineering Picture 2 Picture of a ‘sumo battle’ between robots.

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