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The Borders of Engineers Without Borders: A Self-Assessment of Ingenieros Sin Fronteras Colombia

Author(s): Andrés Felipe Valderrama Pineda | Richard Arias-Hernández | María C. Ramírez | Astrid Bejarano | Juan C. Silva

Journal: International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace
ISSN 1927-9434

Volume: 1;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 18;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: self-assessment | service learning | Engineers Without Borders

This article results from a process of self-assessment within Ingenieros Sin Fronteras Colombia (ISFC). The activities usually referred to as humanitarian engineering, assistive engineering, engineering for aid, and/or engineering for development are increasingly involving educational frameworks, activities, and institutions in service-learning schemes. In this article, we discuss the issues and challenges that arise from this combination of objectives, activities, and institutional settings, especially when these approaches are implemented in the Global South. To do so we reflect on the type of service learning we are conducting in Colombia. We develop a general service learning in engineering typology to situate our work. We find that our Local Learning in the South collaboration makes the work of ISFC both different than and similar to other service-learning engagements. It is different in the sense that local engagements do not experience the cultural and language barriers faced by cross-cultural projects. It is similar in the sense that, with the exception of the cross-cultural challenges, our projects run the same risks as any other service learning in engineering projects in the world. To reflect on these risks we propose a set of five questions to self-assess our work. Thinking about the choice of naming our work “ingeniería sin fronteras” (engineering without borders), we consider what kind of borders we are dealing with and propose five: financial, epistemic, engineering educational, knowledge, and reputation. We invite other organizations to question the kind of borders their work aims at eliminating but risks replicating.
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