My favorite part of the St. Ambrose mission statement is "to enrich their own lives and the lives of others." I've always wanted to do things that help people–it's become my mission in life. I am very lucky to be in a position where I can do that in so many different ways.
As an engineering professor, it is my duty to not only teach my students the technical skills they will need on the job, but to also instill in them what it is to be an Ambrosian. As engineers, we have a specific set of skills, so why not use those skills to enrich the lives of others?
One way I teach and impart that value in my students is through our Program for Assistive Technologies for the Underprivileged (PATU). All St. Ambrose engineering students, both industrial and mechanical, participate in PATU in their junior-level design course. During this course, they work together on teams with students from Sweet Briar College (Sweet Briar, Virginia) and mentors from occupational therapy to research, design, and implement devices for people with disabilities in the Quad Cities, Lynchburg, Va., and Ilheus, Bahia, Brazil.
By participating in this program, not only are the students learning critical problem solving and design skills, but they are learning to communicate long-distance and collaborate on multi-disciplinary teams–critical tools for success in today's workforce. In addition, they learn social responsibility, cross-cultural and global awareness, and how to work to fulfill the unique needs of their client. There are very few universities where all engineering students will have an opportunity for such an enriching experience, and I am proud that St. Ambrose is among them.
At the conclusion of the project, we travel to Brazil to teach clinicians and patients how to use the devices. This allows students to experience the beauty of the culture and witness people in deep poverty. It's truly an eye-opening experience for them to see the level of need out there and then to recognize that we can use our skills as engineers to make a significant difference in the life of another.
All students that participate in the program, not just those who take the trip to Brazil, are given the opportunity to see how they fit into a larger global society. I find such joy in helping others, not just because of that good feeling it gives, but also because it helps me to keep my own life in perspective. I remember the reasons why I became an engineer and an Ambrosian and hope that my students will also reflect on this experience as a positive force in their future goals.
–by Jodi Prosise, PhD
Assistant Professor of Engineering