Localized Engineering in Displacement: An Alternative Model for Out-of-School Youth and Refugee Students to Engineer their own Solutions for their own Communities.

Event Date: January 8, 2022
Authors: Jennifer DeBoer, Dhinesh Radhakrishnan, Claudio Freitas
Journal: Advances in Engineering Education
Displaced learners, uprooted because of conflict, poverty, or other major traumas, are often shut out of opportunities to learn engineering. At the same time, fragile contexts demand engineers’ expertise, but experts and their engineered solutions are often called in from outside the community. In this article, we examine engineering learning as a vehicle for development in displaced communities by expanding the representation of engineers to explicitly include refugees and formerly homeless youth. We describe an alternative, co-created approach to providing authentic engineering learning through a framework called Localized Engineering in Displacement.

Grounded in principles of critical pedagogy and social justice, this framework is structured to integrate technical content, professional skills, and engineering design, all focused on needs identified by the local students themselves. The Localized framework encompasses the curriculum itself, the collaborative attitudes and humility of partners involved, the prioritization of local engineers’ learning pathways, the pedagogical capacity building of local instructors, and the institutional partnerships required to recognize and implement students’ work. In addition to describing our framework and situating it in the literature, we document two major program outcomes: empowered identity and community impact. Refugee learners and former street youth in the community develop their self-image as engineers, especially after being in positions of low levels of agency or control over their lives. The keystone to the program is our collaboration with local learning spaces (usually in-country implementing NGOs) and community institutions to invest in long-term implementation of solutions. We discuss multiple aspects of community impact, including the engineered products that student members of low-resource communities create, ongoing community teacher development, and collaborative research.

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