Sustainability Challenges & the Opportunities for Global Engagement: Linking Caribbean secondary school classrooms and Engineering Departments at US Universities

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Sustainability Challenges & the Opportunities for Global Engagement: Linking Caribbean secondary school classrooms and Engineering Departments at US Universities Sustainability is recognized as critical for the framing of engineering research and education with unique opportunities for engineering student training through non--traditional university partnerships, including international ones. With limited natural resources, high vulnerability to catastrophic events, and isolated by sea, Caribbean islands have been pushing for sustainable development and have championed adaptation as the main mechanism to deal with climate change. Actual demonstration projects or widespread educational initiatives needed tosolve issues like water scarcity are few and only a very small work force has training in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This paper discusses a secondary school student challenge that was developed in the Caribbean to address these issues with particular attention paid to Belize and the types of linkages that evolved with US based engineering students and the ways in which students in the Caribbean and the US were exposed to a global environment. The Sagicor Visionaries Challenge (, conceived, implemented &sponsored by the Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF), the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), and Sagicor in partnership with Ministries of Education in twelve different Caribbean countries, aims to promote sustainable Caribbean communities through innovation in science,technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). For 2013 it asked secondary school students in the Caribbean to identify a challenge facing their school and or community, propose a sustainable and innovative solution, and show how that solution uses STEM? Teacher and student sensitization workshops were organized in each country. Teachers supervised the studentprojects with support from mentors who were either local or virtual. Mentors included professionals and faculty and students from institutions like the University of the West Indies,MIT, Georgia Tech, UC Irvine, Auburn University, Mount Union College, Dartmouth College,the University of Toronto, & the University of South Florida. One hundred and seventy-five(175) projects entered the competition, representing 900 students ranging in age from 11 to 19.Secondary schools in the Caribbean would be equivalent to a combination of US middle and high schools. Twenty four projects entered the challenge from Belize, two of which were formally engaged with student classes from two different US universities. A teacher and 5 students from a private secondary school in Caye Caulker, a Belize an island, were matched with a mentor at a US University. That mentor required the twenty students in his senior level Geo spatial Technologies for Systems Engineering class work on the Belize request to design a composting system based on material, financial, and local environmental constraints. Teams of two to three university students worked with the teacher and students from Belize and presented the irfindings via SKYPE and as a written report. While being mentored by a local Belize an engineer on a storm water management project for their school in Belize City, connections were made to a Professor of Civil Engineering at a US university who focused her International Engineering Field Experience course on their project. In May 2013 fifteen students from her class visited Belize to survey the site, teaching survey methods to the secondary school students as well. In May 2014 another group will visit to continue working on the project which involves thecreation of a detention pond and an ecological park for outdoor laboratory experiments.

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Paper presented at 2014 ASEE International Forum on June 14, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana, 14 p.