Epics: A Model Of Service Learning In An Engineering Curriculum


Engineering Projects in Community Service — EPICS — is a service-learning program that was initiated at Purdue University in the Fall of 1995. Under this program, undergraduate students in engineering earn academic credit for long-term team projects that solve technology based problems for local community service organizations. The program has grown to include 20 project teams with approximately 250 students participating during the 1999 academic year. Each EPICS project team consists of ten to fifteen students. The teams are interdisciplinary including students from Electrical, Computer, Mechanical, Civil, Aerospace, Industrial and Materials Engineering as well as from Computer Science, Chemistry, Sociology, Nursing, Visual Design, English and Education. The teams are vertically integrated each is a mix of freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors and a student can participate in a project for up to three and a half years. The continuity provided by this structure allows projects to last for many years. Projects of significant size and impact are thus possible. The goals of the EPICS program include: providing students with multi-year, team-based, design and development experience; teaching students, by direct experience, how to interact with each other and with customers to specify, design, develop and deploy systems that solve real problems; and showing engineering students how their expertise can benefit even the most disadvantaged members of their community. A national EPICS program is being initiated to expand this highly successful service learning model. Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Wisconsin and the University of Notre Dame will partner with the existing program at Purdue University to form local teams at their respective institutions as well as to network teams of students at the different institutions. These networked teams will be able to collaborate on issues at a regional or national scale.