Mech. & Biomedical Engineering
Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering Service Learning Module
Directed by: Professor Abhay Pandit, Department of Biomedical Engineering
In an increasingly competitive world, students are finding it harder and harder to acquire employment in their graduate areas. Service learning is a way to increase student’s marketability to potential employers, giving them the tools, knowledge, and practical skills needed to become more sought after by employers. Service learning requires a commitment of time and energy for the benefit of local communities and individuals. However service learning has a unique function, in that it is particular to the student’s graduate field.
The Mechanical Engineering degree, under Professor Abhay Pandit, has incorporated a service learning module into its programme, giving students experiential learning while applying academic knowledge. CAIRDE, Community Awareness Initiatives Responsibility-Directed by Engineers, was designed by Professor Pandit in Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering as a way for students to identify a need in their community and define a project with very distinct goals.
“It is more real life experience that students can gain and can see their need and their usefulness in the community,” Professor Pandit said. “I am trying to use tools that they are used to, but underlining it with access to the community.” Students spend one semester out of their final year doing the module, dedicating a minimum of 16 hours to their project, and an additional minimum of four hours for reflecting on the experience and creating a poster for presentation to the university community. The posters are technical/scientific posters that are hung and presented to an audience, reflecting on their work.
“As a university we have a duty to engage students with the community and to create students that give to the community,” Professor Pandit said. “We need to teach them so that we can distinguish them as different from other universities so that when they go into jobs, their CV will show that something extra.”
According to Professor Pandit, the module helps show students how engineers in-career make contributions to their communities as well as help them to meet and interact with people from different backgrounds in a role of service. During the service learning module, students learn practical knowledge in their field through organised services that address genuine community needs. Students apply concepts presented in their field and reflect on the experience.
“I feel that these service learning modules are so critical,” Professor Pandit said. “Students by default live in a cocoon of privilege and if we don’t challenge that privilege we are not doing what we should.” Originally implemented as a way for students to develop engineering skills, the service learning module has evolved to incorporate a commitment to local communities by making a contribution of time and expertise. “Service should be a part of what the students do,” Professor Pandit said. “Both students and the community benefit from the experience.”
“This year is different than last year and next year will be different from this year,” Professor Pandit laughs, "otherwise it would get boring for me.”
Community Engagement in Engineering
Two students at NUI Galway have designed a mobile wheelchair ramp for disabled people at the Irish Pilgrimage Trust (IHCPT). Alan Divilly and John Joe Finn, students of the Mechanical Engineering Programme, are getting an extra dose in community engagement during their third year on the course.
Together the students have developed a project to build a fold up wheelchair ramp for disabled people. Initially proposing the project in October 2005, the pair have worked since then on the design and development of the wheelchair ramp