Paper ID #8290The Harvard SEAS/Poli-USP Collaborative Field Course for InternationalEnvironmental Engineering EducationDr. Patrick D Ulrich, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied SciencesPatrick Ulrich has been the Assistant Director for Undergraduate Studies in Environmental Sciences &Engineering and a Lecturer on Environmental Sciences & Engineering in Harvard’s School of Engineeringand Applied Sciences since 2012. He earned a Ph.D. (2011) and M.S. (2006) in environmental engineeringfrom the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.S. in Physics (2005) from the Pennsylvania StateUniversity.Prof. Chad D VecitisJason Dyett, Harvard University, DRCLASJason Dyett is Program Director of Harvard University’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin AmericanStudies (DRCLAS) Brazil Office. Since establishing the Office in São Paulo in mid-2006, he has workedto expand research and teaching opportunities for Harvard faculty and students and their Brazilian collaborators across disciplines. Dyett first moved to São Paulo in 1996, after two and a half years at theDRCLAS in Cambridge. From 1997 to 2002, he established the office of the Economist IntelligenceUnit’s telecommunications research division in Brazil and went on to gain experience growing technology companies in the country. He rejoined DRCLAS from the Corporate Executive Board, a Washington,DC based organization that provides executive education. He has an MBA from the University of Chicago(2004) and a BA in Political Science and Spanish from the University of Vermont (1994, Phi Beta Kappa).Prof. Monica F A Porto, USPB.Sc. in Civil Engineering, 1978, Escola Politécnica - Universidade de São Paulo, M.Sc. in Water Resources Engineering, 1983, Universidade de São Paulo, Ph.D. in Water Resources Engineering, 1993,Universidade de São Paulo (1993). Full Professor at Escola Poiltécnica, Universidade de São Paulo.Deputy Head iof the Department of Hydraulic and Sanitary Engineering, Escola Politécnica, Universityof São Paulo. President of the Fundação Centro Tecnológico de Hidráulica. Fields of expertise: waterquality, water quality management, water resources managementPage 21.66.1c American Society for Engineering Education, 2013
The Harvard SEAS/Poli-USP Collaborative Field Course forInternational Environmental Engineering EducationIntroductionAs modern society becomes increasingly globalized, engineers must adapt to a new variety ofinternational-scale problems1. This adaptation includes developing and applying technicalsolutions that are effective on both the local and global scale, as well as collaborating withinternational peers. It is increasingly important for engineering students to develop a globalprofessional perspective during their training, and an international educational experience is anexceptional way to allow students to gain an understanding of engineering within the context ofanother culture. This paper describes the fourth edition of the annual SEAS/Poli-USPCollaborative Field Course, a joint program of Harvard's School of Engineering and AppliedSciences (SEAS), the Escola Politécnica of the Universidade de São Paulo (Poli-USP), andHarvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS). This innovativecourse, which brought together 13 students from Harvard and 15 students from USP, was held inBrazil in January 2013 and focused on the “Global Challenges of Energy Production.” Courseparticipants attended lectures and discussions with leading energy researchers and professionalsand visited a variety of energy facilities. The site visits included a hydroelectric power station, anuclear power plant, the control center for Brazil’s national electric grid, a landfill gas to energyproject, and the manufacturing facilities of two engineering firms specializing in thedevelopment and production of wind and hydropower turbines.Collaborative Field Course BackgroundThe innovative field course model used in the SEAS/Poli-USP Collaborative Field Course wasoriginally developed and deployed by Harvard University (including DRCLAS) and Brazilianpartners in 2008, with the first edition of their field course studying public health in Brazil2,3.This novel course structure pairs together an equal number of students from each university andintegrates the students completely throughout the multi-week experience. The immersive natureof the course puts students in direct contact with relevant professionals in Brazil and divides thecontact time between technical lectures and in-depth visits at field sites. Additionally, the courseis conducted in English to reduce any potential language barriers between participants.Page 21.66.2Coincident with the success of the inaugural public health course, which has continued to beoffered annually, SEAS began to look for new ways to offer international experiences for itsengineering undergraduates. Due to the rigorous course requirements of the engineeringprogram, it is often difficult for students to spend a semester abroad and stay on track with theiracademic timeline. The recent change to Harvard’s academic calendar to create a Wintersessionterm in January opened the door to a new range of possibilities. Many faculty members in theEnvironmental Sciences & Engineering program at SEAS had on-going research projects withBrazilian collaborators, and the timing match of summer break in South America was anattractive fit. Poli-USP was an excellent match for a partner institution because it is the largestand most prestigious engineering school in Brazil. An additional benefit of the location was thatDRCLAS had recently opened their Brazil Office in São Paulo, which could provide on-theground support for the course.
The first SEAS/Poli-USP Collaborative Field Course was held in Brazil in January 2010, and ithas been offered each successive year on a different topic related to environmental engineering(see Table 1 and reference 4). While the course was initially developed as an internationalexperience for Harvard students, the value of alternating the location between Brazil and theUnited States quickly became apparent. In January 2012, the course was held in the UnitedStates for the first time, and the new idea of seeking out student carry-over from year-to-yearwas implemented. While each course has been individually developed to educate students aboutits specific international engineering focus, students who participate in multiple courses are ableto develop an even greater appreciation for the international nature of engineering byexperiencing the similarities and differences of engineering practice in both host nations.Table 1. Number of participants, location, and topics for all offerings of the SEAS/Poli-USP CollaborativeField Course.YearLocationStudents Course Title2010Brazil26Energy, Water, and the Environment2011Brazil29Engineering and the Urban Environment2012United States21Engineering, the Environment, and Extreme Events2013Brazil28Global Challenges of Energy Production in the Coming DecadesEducational ObjectivesThe educational goals for the Collaborative Field Course can be divided into the specificeducational objectives of the 2013 course focusing on energy production, as well as the longterm collaborative objectives of the on-going annual course.The specific Educational Objectives for the 2013 course were:1. To evaluate current and future energy generation technologies that are relevant on both alocal and global scale, including the associated environmental and social impacts2. To compare the similarities and differences of the energy systems and production inBrazil and the U.S., as well as the driving forces behind energy decisions in each country3. To provide students with a hands-on learning experience through site visits of energygeneration facilities and related engineering firms4. To have students work as international teams to address topics in energy engineeringTo accomplish these goals, course participants attended lectures and discussions that were highlyintegrated with the site visits and active student participation was required for all aspects of thecourse. Additionally, the students were grouped into five integrated teams (each team with halfof the students from Harvard and half from USP) that were assigned a topic to evaluatethroughout the course and present at a closing symposium.Page 21.66.3The long-term goals for the annual course are:1. To develop future global engineers via an immersive international experience2. To encourage students to identify topics of personal interest and pursue follow-onprojects for their senior design projects or independent research projects3. To foster cooperation between universities, including relationships between facultymembers that can lead to productive research collaborations4. To build a long-term international professional network for students
The course functions as a non-traditional catalyst for strengthening networks and fosteringinternational collaborations. To help meet these goals, Harvard and USP participants were fullyintegrated in the classroom, on field visits, in hotels, and throughout their social interactions.Participants were encouraged to experience the culture of the destination cities during the freetime and organized group outings. Additionally, students were given information about potentialfunding opportunities for international internships and were encouraged to talk with facultymembers about their academic and career goals.Course planning and pre-departure preparationsIn order to plan an effective course that encompassed these comprehensive goals, a long-termcollaborative effort by a dedicated team of faculty and staff members from the three sponsoringinstitutions was necessary. Discussions of the course topic for the year and potential site visitsbegan early in the summer and were continued throughout the fall semester. A core team of staffand lead faculty members talked frequently, and multiple conference calls were held with all theparticipating faculty members as well. In all, 10 core personnel were intricately involved with thedevelopment and execution of the course in Brazil, including 3 professors from Poli-USP, 3professors and 2 staff from Harvard SEAS, and 2 staff from the DRCLAS Brazil Office.The course was publicized to students via announcements and information sessions beginning inSeptember, and the application deadline was October 7. After the deadline, faculty and staff fromeach university reviewed their own applicant pool. The selection criteria centered on identifyingacademically strong students with a demonstrated interest in energy systems. Any currentHarvard student was eligible to apply, and an attempt was made to balance a selection preferencefor SEAS students with the desire to diversify the academic background of the students. In prioryears, Poli-USP had limited the course to environmental engineering students, however, studentsfrom other engineering disciplines were eligible for the 2013 course due to the cross-disciplinarynature of energy engineering. Because the course is conducted in English, the DRCLAS BrazilOffice held conversational language interviews with the Brazilian candidates before the finalselections were made.A total of 28 exceptional students (15 from Poli-USP and 13 from Harvard) participated in the2013 Course. While the majority of the students were undergraduates, the group included twoPh.D. candidates as well as a Master’s student from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. The15 Poli-USP participants were studying Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering, andArchitecture, Urbanism & Civil Engineering. Harvard students were pursuing degrees inEnvironmental Sciences & Engineering, Biomedical Engineering & Computer Science,Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering & Material Science. The group was diversein terms of nationalities as well, with students representing Belgium, China, Colombia, Italy,Nigeria, Palestine, and Zimbabwe, in addition to the United States and Brazil.Page 21.66.4Starting with the January 2013 course, selection preference was given to students who hadparticipated in the prior course to maintain student continuity between years. In total, 4 studentsfrom Harvard and 3 students from Poli-USP participated in both the 2012 and 2013 courses. Thebenefits to this decision were clearly evident, as students who knew each other were quick to reestablish their friendships. This particular group of students gelled much faster than in prioryears, likely due to the fact that students who already knew each other were able to introduce
their friends to others from both schools. Additionally, many of the Harvard students from theprior year came to Brazil early and stayed with their peers before the course began. Bringingstudents together for multiple shared experiences goes a long way toward the objective ofbuilding a long-term international network for the participants.Two new pre-departure requirements were implemented for the 2013 course. First, a videoconference call was held in early December to allow the students to introduce themselves andmeet the other students, faculty, and staff. Additionally, this meeting provided an opportunity todisseminate important information about what to expect during the course and for students to askany remaining pre-departure questions. The second change was to assign the students a set ofrequired readings. In prior years, suggested readings were provided, but to ensure that allstudents had a baseline background for high-level lectures and site visits, the readings wererequired for the 2013 course.Course structure in BrazilCourse participants were required to arrive in São Paulo on Sunday, January 6, and departed twoweeks later on Saturday, January 19. The course program started the first evening with a groupdinner, and the educational component began the next morning. The course schedule (Table 2)included 6 days in São Paulo, followed by 2 days in Paraty, one day in Angra dos Reis, one dayin Rio de Janeiro, and the final 3 days back in São Paulo. A chartered bus was used to travelbetween locations, including intercity travel and local transportation from the hotel to the dailydestinations. The staff members from DRCLAS and SEAS participated in the entire two-weekitinerary, while the professors spent varying amounts of time with the course. For example,Professors Porto and Salles from Poli-USP participated almost every day, while others gave asingle lecture or spent a few days with the students. The Harvard professors each spent around aweek with the course. Past experience demonstrated that it can be difficult for faculty membersto commit to the entire 2-3 week duration of the course. However, participating for around oneweek provides a sufficient amount of time to get to know each student personally and to greatlyenhance the educational experience. Additionally, care was taken to ensure that at least onefaculty member from each university would be present during each day of the course.The pacing of daily lectures and site visits was brisk and the days were long and fulfilling. Ingeneral, each day began with students and staff meeting in the hotel lobby and boarding thecharter bus by 8:30 am, and they typically returned to the hotel around 6 pm. During the timespent in São Paulo, the USP campus served as base of operations, including the classroom usedfor many lectures and the final symposium. In an effort to meet the objective of fosteringcollaborations between the universities, and as an extra incentive to encourage facultyparticipation, external meetings for the visiting professors were arranged with Brazilianresearchers and other professional contacts.Page 21.66.5The daily mix of integrated lectures and site visits is a unique strength of the Collaborative FieldCourse model, as it provides an opportunity for students to experience the direct application ofthe material presented in the classroom. To further encourage active participation of all studentswith the lectures and the site visits, integrated student teams were assigned a topic to evaluateand present in a final presentation. These topics were chosen to span the array of energy systemscovered in the course so that students needed to synthesize and compare material from the entire
experience. The topics were: distributed versus centralized generation; economics of powergeneration technologies; environmental impact of power generation; integration of powergeneration technologies, including networks and smart grids; and comparison between electricityproduction and capacity for different sources. Students were given two dedicated afternoonsessions and an entire day at the hotel in Paraty to work on their projects, and faculty memberscirculated between the groups at these times. On the final day of the course, the student teamseach gave a 20 minute presentation that addressed their assigned topic and included acomparison of the topic in the United States and Brazil. While the presentations were notformally assessed via grades, all of the participating professors were invited to the symposium,and there was general agreement that the students performed very well.Table 2. Schedule of lectures and site visits for January 2013 Collaborative Field Course.DateLecturesSite VisitsGlobal & Local Challenges of7-JanPoli-USP Environmental Engineering LabsEnergy ProductionWind Power Generation8-JanPoli-USP Photovoltaic LaboratoryHydropower Generation9-JanBillings Reservoir & Henry Border Power PlantHydropower Development in Brazil10-JanVoith Hydro(Odebrecht Energia)Waste-to-Energy Technologies11-JanBandeirantes Landfill Gas to Energy ProjectNuclear Electric PowerImpacts of Energy Production onHarvard DRCLAS Brazil Office12-Janthe Atmosphere and ClimateTravel to Paraty13-JanMandatory group outing for all participants14-JanAll day to work on group projects15-JanLecture by Site Host16-JanLectures by Site Hosts17-Jan18-Jan19-JanExpert Panel Discussion onInnovations in EthanolSmart GridsSolar Energy TechnologiesOnline course evaluationsGroup presentationsEletobrás Angra 2 Nuclear Power PlantEmpresa de Pesquisa EnergéticaOperador Nacional do Sistema ElétricoCentro de Células a Combustível e Hidrogênio doInstituto de Pesquisas Energéticas e NuclearesTecsis Wind Turbine BladesMany of the long-term objectives are attained by encouraging integration of the participantsthroughout all aspects of the course. For example, all of the students stayed in the same hotel,and roommates were assigned to place Harvard and USP students together. Additionally, groupdinners were arranged every few days at a variety of local restaurants, which offered a greatchance for students, faculty, and staff to relax and socialize. The rest of the evenings were left asfree time, and the students typically self-organized a group outing to experience the local culture.Additionally, a few faculty and staff dinners were planned on these evenings as well.Page 21.66.6There are many challenges associated with the coordination of a group of around 35 people for adense two-week schedule at multiple locations. A substantial amount of advanced logisticalplanning was necessary to keep things running smoothly, which was done by the DRCLAS staff.To aide with on-the-ground coordination, a course packet containing a detailed schedule wasprovided to the students when they arrived. Additionally, the students and staff were added to a
private Facebook Group to facilitate communication during the course. Past experience hasshown this to be the most efficient and effective way of disseminating information quicklythrough the group, and it also allowed for students to easily coordinate their evening plans. TheGroup page remains active after the completion of the course so that students have an easy wayof getting back in touch with their peers. Additionally, this proved to be an especially useful toolfor the Harvard students who planned to arrive early in Brazil, as they had a centralized place towork out the details of who they could stay with.Publicizing the success of the course is another great way to work towards achievement of thelong-term collaborative goals. The 2013 course was covered by a variety of news outlets inBrazil, including articles in the popular online news sites G1 Globo5 and Terra6. Additionally, adaily blog written by the students was implemented in the 2013 course as a real-time outreachtool7. The blog posts were shared via the SEAS Facebook and Twitter accounts and they offeredan opportunity for others to follow the progress of the trip. Each day, a few students were askedto write a short post about their experiences, often while on the bus or during some other downtime in the schedule. Following the course, the blog has served as a great resource for peopleinterested in learning more about the experience.Student FeedbackIn addition to evaluating attainment of the educational goals from personal interactions withstudents throughout the course and the final presentations, the students were required to fill outan anonymous course evaluation. To ensure 100% participation, the students were asked to bringtheir laptops with them to the presentation room before the final symposium, and they weregiven 30 minutes to complete the online survey. The student evaluations were overwhelminglypositive for the overall course experience (Fig. 1). When asked about the academic content of thecourse, the students again responded very positively. Commonly cited themes included the highvalue of the site visit experiences and great discussions with the knowledgeable lecturers. Whenasked for weaknesses of the course, students most frequently noted that the days were long andtiring and that additional pre-departure information would have been helpful. Representativestudent comments include:Harvard student: “The course covered an almost unimaginable number of topics in a veryshort amount of time. We were afforded many bonding opportunities. The trips werefantastic and the speakers were very knowledgeable. We lived very well while we were here:the accommodations were terrific and the resources outside the course's scope were great.”Poli-USP student: “I think that the course would certainly help me develop some skillswhich it would be harder to find in Poli, such as interpersonal skills, and motivate me tostudy in the USA (even better if it was at Harvard). The opportunity of meeting not only theteachers and staff involved in the organization of the course, but also the Poli and Harvardstudents was a fantastic experience”Page 21.66.7When asked about the impact of this course on their future plans, students again providedoverwhelmingly positive feedback (Fig. 2). Students also responded positively about theimportance of the interaction between international students. Of the 28 participants, 27 selectedthe highest category (“Very positive”) for the question of “Overall, how was the participation of
foreign students in the course?” Common themes of their responses to questions about thelonger-term goals of the course were the benefit of building an international engineering networkand the value of learning with and from students of such varied backgrounds. Representativestudent comments include:Harvard Student: “Having Brazilian students with us in the course is what makes this coursesuch a unique experience, and I think it really made the trip what it is. Getting to learn aboutand see Brazil with students from here was really fun.”Poli-USP student: “The program has a lot to do with my primary interests in EnvironmentalEngineering, which are renewable energy and waste management, and eventually both ofthem linked. In this way, I feel like it will have a huge impact in my professional life.Networking is also a consequence of the program that will impact in both my personal andprofessional lives. The cultural exchange has an impact in my personal life too.”Harvard Student: “This course gave me a lot of inspiration for my senior design project that Iwill be starting next year and it provided me with excellent contacts both for futureprofessional opportunities in the form of internships and eventual employment. The studentsthat I met on the trip were extremely generous and hospitable and I fully intend to supportthem next year should they return [on the 2014 course at Harvard]”Poli-USP Student: “All the Harvard students seemed to be very interested in learning thingsfrom our culture, language, history, etc. I've had a great time trying to explain as much aspossible to them and I think that they've enjoyed it too. During the lectures and site visits itwas very good having them, because it made it possible for us Brazilian students to have anopportunity of getting an overview of the Americans’ point of view concerning the subject.”Figure 1. Anonymous student ratings of the 2013 Harvard SEAS/Poli-USP Collaborative Field Course.Page 21.66.8Evaluating the long-term objectivesWhile the anonymous feedback suggested that students feel this experience will have a greatimpact on their professional lives, the best data to support the long-term objectives of the coursecome from success stories of previous participants. A prime example of the effect this style ofcourse can have on university partnerships is the research collaboration that formed followingthe 2011 course between Professor Vecitis (SEAS) and Professor Mierzwa (Poli-USP). As part
of this collaboration, Professor Mierzwa spent a year visiting the Vecitis Lab, and anundergraduate from Poli-USP also came for 6 months. This collaboration has resulted in anumber of co-authored manuscripts and a U.S. patent application. Additionally, they havecontinued to strengthen their collaboration through researcher exchange. A SEAS graduate from2012 is currently spending one year in Professor Mierzwa's lab at Poli-USP as a research fellow.She is working closely with a doctoral student that is beginning his dissertation research andplans to spend time in the Vecitis Lab at Harvard in the future.Figure 2. Students overwhelmingly reported that they expect the 2013 Collaborative Field Coursewill have an impact on their future academic and professional plans.The course has opened doors for other students as well. For example, a Brazilian student fromthe 2012 course spent a few months on an internship at Harvard’s Graduate School of Designduring the Spring 2013 semester. Additionally, many of the Harvard students from the 2013course have shown a significant interest in returning to Brazil in a professional capacity. Four ofthe undergraduates have applied for summer internship opportunities in Brazil, with the supportof the DRCLAS Brazil Office, and each of them also enrolled in a Portuguese language course atHarvard to help prepare for their potential return.Future of the coursePlanning for the January 2014 Collaborative Field Course, which will be held in the UnitedStates, has already begun. The organizers look forward to developing a new series of lecturesand site visits around an international engineering topic. Now that a few years have passed sincethe first cohort of students participated, it will be useful to survey the alumni to assess what longterm impacts that the course has had on their professional and personal development.Page 21.66.9AcknowledgementsThis course would not have been possible without the vision and support of many individualsand institutions in Brazil and the United States. The authors wish to thank all of the faculty andstaff that participated in the development and execution of the 2013 course, especially ManoelCarlos Pereira Neto, as well as everyone involved with all of the prior courses. We also thankour gracious site visit hosts in Brazil. We want to express our deep appreciation for the ongoingsupport of the Deans of Poli-USP and SEAS and from the Lemann Family Endowment, Brazil’sCNPq, and the Fundação Centro Tecnológico de Hidráulica.
References22.214.171.124.5.6.7.National Academy of Engineering, Grand challenges for engineering, Available online:http://engineeringchallenges.org/?ID 11574, Accessed March 5, 2013Wilson ME, Ko AI, Reis MG (2011) Collaborative Teaching and Learning: A Model for Building Capacityand Partnerships to Address NTDs. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 5(3): e939. harvard.edu/brazil/publichealth-fortaleza-2013, Accessed March 5, -usp-2013, Accessed March 5, ngenharia-em-sp.html, “USP e Harvard promovem juntas curso de férias de engenharia em SP” G1 Globo.Accessed March 15, 383b7bcd8e3c310VgnVCM5000009ccceb0aRCRD.html, “Alunos da USP e de Harvard fazem cursocolaborativo em SP” Terra Networks Brasil S.A. Accessed March 15, 2013http://harvardinbrazil.blogspot.com.br, Accessed March 5, 2013Page 21.66.10
Environmental Sciences & Engineering program at SEAS had on -going research projects with Brazilian collaborators , and the timing match of summer break in South America was an attractive fit. Poli -USP was an excellent match for a partner institution bec ause it is the largest and most prestigious engineering school in Brazil .