Shiley-Marcos School Launches Engineering Exchange for Social Justice

Shiley-Marcos School Launches Engineering Exchange for Social Justice

Everything made by humans has been engineered by someone for some reason. But who decides what is engineered and why?

Answering that question is behind the Shiley-Marcos School’s new Engineering Exchange for Social Justice (ExSJ).

Officially launched at a lunch meeting of faculty, students and community leaders in late March, the ExSJ hopes to define a new approach for engineering and community partnerships.

“The idea of an exchange is more than just a word and the idea of community service,” explained Professor of Praxis Caroline Baillie. “It should be part of a paradigm shift towards making engineering a profession and practice that listens and responds to all members of the community.”

Supported by USD’s Karen and Tom Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness and Social Action, the ExSJ will use a “shopfront” approach, allowing communities to present their challenges and initiate partnerships to address them. Listening to the voices of those who have been marginalized in the past will be key.

“We need to share and learn from each other to solve the world’s problems together,” Baillie said. “We want to learn as much as we teach.”

A first project for the ExSJ is already in the planning stages. Baillie and students will be partnering with the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve to study the possibility of a program to support community engagement and waste reduction with Tijuana residents. Local community members will be invited to learn from Baillie’s existing “Waste for Life” program and teach others how to upcycle using engineering technology.

“We aim to bring a ‘waste is a resource’ approach to the neighborhoods whose trash currently ends up in the estuary as they have no established local waste management services,” she said. “If they see the value in the waste they won’t discard it in that way.”

Other potential ExSJ partners include the Blind Community Center and Clear Blue Sea, both non-profit organizations that already work with USD engineering students. In the case of Clear Blue Sea, engineering students are currently collaborating with them on the design and development of a robot to clean up ocean debris.

Students and alumni are also excited about participating. Shiley-Marcos graduate Chase Tushaus '11 has agreed to help start a Pro Bono network and current student Anton Navazo '19 will be the student lead.

“I really like the idea of combining students (with what) they’re passionate about,” said computer science student Elizabeth Kresock '20 who has worked with USD’s Knapp Scholars program to excite K-12  students in Tijuana about mathematics and science using paper folding.

The ExSJ will build upon USD’s efforts as a Changemaker campus and anchor institution, and its values of social justice; reflecting the “unique character of USD engineering,” said USD’s Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering Dean Chell Roberts.





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