International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD) (7th : 2015)

MIT Ideas Global Challenge and D-Lab lessons in mentoring, transdisciplinarity and real world engineering Murcott, Susan


This paper reflects on the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge and D-Lab pedagogy over the past 15 years (2001-2015). The MIT IDEAS Global Challenge, a program of the MIT Public Service Center, is an annual invention and entrepreneurship competition that awards up to $10,000 per team for innovative service projects. IDEAS student teams work with a community partner on projects that are designed to improve the quality of life of underserved communities globally. Since its founding in 2001, the IDEAS Competition has awarded more than $600,000 to 132 teams. “D-Lab – Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Environmental Innovations for the Common Good” (“D-Lab-WASH”) is a MIT course offered for the past 10 years within a curriculum of over 20 D-Lab classes in international development. This author has mentored several hundred student teams, including 26 IDEAS Global Challenge winning teams. Eighty-one percent of these IDEAS winning teams have been led by women students. In common with the wider family of D-Lab courses, D-Lab-WASH is structured around hands-on, field-based learning and real-world engineering. This paper provides several success stories of student teams that have implemented their innovations and addresses the following Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD) conference themes: • Reconceptualizing Engineering Education: How are these two engineering programs, IDEAS and D-Lab, reconceptualizing engineering education to incorporate sustainability? What role does trans-disciplinarity, leadership, and humanitarianism play? What is best practice? • “Walking the Talk”: How do we monitor and continually improve IDEAS and D-Lab? What are the institutional supports and challenges?

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