Students from Princeton University partnered with students from the American University in Cairo in a three-week intensive hands-on field experience in Egypt. The project was to assemble, install, and test a wind mill-driven pump used for irrigation and to survey communities across Egypt in the Delta and Red Sea coast to assess water needs in these communities. The course offered a perspective on sustainable development in Egypt followed by water and energy resource challenges in Egypt's diverse geographic areas. Students assembled a wind pump and installed it at the American University in Cairo for testing prior to installation at El Heiz, a desert oasis community in the Western Desert. The students were selected from diverse backgrounds in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Operations Research and Financial Engineering, and learned the value of having diverse teams address engineering problems in a truly global context. This paper presents the case study including lessons learned in implementation of this experiential learning field project.
One of Egypt's most important future challenges is to produce more food for the country's growing population while using less water, less fossil fuels, and while reducing its carbon footprint . While solar pumping solutions have experienced exponential growth over the past decade and have become the most implemented pumping solution for new land development in the Western Desert, wind as a power source for pumping is still under-explored in rural Egypt . However, as agricultural expansion through small farmer investment across the Western Desert grows, so does the need for water pumping. Local farmers have started pooling money for investing in solar pumps for new wells. Although the prices for photovoltaic systems have dropped significantly over the past two decades, the investment in solar pumps is still a significant one for small, local farmers. Most farmers do not invest in batteries, and solar pumping is thus confined to the hours of sunshine throughout the day. When water is not sufficient to irrigate all fields, farmers may invest in a larger pump, but when the capacity of that pump size is reached, additional informal wells are being drilled. The growing number of informal wells has posed a significant problem to the levels of discharge in surrounding wells as well as to the sustainability of the finite waters of the aquifer system more generally. Wind pumping as a supplement could help farmers gain maximum benefit from their existing wells and could prevent the growth of small, informal wells that are difficult to control and monitor, thus reducing the stress on the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer system. For this reason, this project proposes a comprehensive assessment of the power and applicability of wind powered pumping in different locations and for varying pumping scenarios across Egypt's Western Desert.
Windmills are among the oldest methods for pumping and milling. They were used to grind grain or draw up water in Persia and then spread to Europe . As early as 1854, Daniel Halladay installed the first windmill pump in U.S. By 1930, millions of American wind pumps had been produced and installed around the world . Improvements in the technology since the first half of the 20th century have made windmill systems lighter, less expensive, and more efficient than in the past . Wind speeds in Egypt's Western Desert, which show maximum winds at night , imply that there is a large, unexplored potential in using wind for sustainable water pumping. In Egypt, windmill pumping was tested in various locations during the second half of the 20th century. The Desert Development Center (DDC) of The American University in Cairo had a pumping windmill installed at its agricultural research station in Egypt's South Tahrir area in the 1990s. While the pumping windmill was showing very satisfying pumping results, it was maintenance problems with the Egyptian technology that caused the windmill to be abandoned. As windmill technology has greatly improved, this consortium sees merit in testing the potential for wind pumping in the Egyptian context under new technical premises.
This paper summarizes the approach of and experiences gained through the three-week long AUC Princeton Joint Summer Internship hosted by The American University in Cairo (AUC) in July 2018 with a group of nine students from Princeton University and AUC. The program's theme was engineering solutions for remote communities, and this first edition of the joint program, funded by the Bartlett Family Fund, focused on wind powered pumping. Through a mix of theoretical and practical activities, the program was an innovative approach to implementing sustainability education at higher education level.
The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development 2005–2014 has generated a plethora of research on how to implement sustainability in education. First, researchers, development practitioners, and educators consider what education for sustainable development is, given that the concept is contested and elusive. Second, researchers deliberate how the concept can be translated into learning modules implemented inside and outside the classroom in locations around the world. Development critics and poststructural researchers question the concept of sustainable development and its discursive construction, unpacking the economic or political interests hidden behind the very notion of sustainable development [6–8]. If defined as a more fluid concept that entails the notion of discourse and debate , that in its very nature is a process rather than an end point, sustainable development becomes even more elusive when being combined with the often rigid institutional structures of education [10,11]. Some scholars have noted that in sustainability education, students should become actors—active, critical subjects of sustainability, rather than only receivers of knowledge [12,13]. Rather than imposing sustainability on education, education is envisaged as a process through which students not only learn about, but actively shape and construct sustainability. Students actively produce knowledge and discourses of sustainability and become contributors to the sustainability debate—an outcome that can be enhanced through participatory teaching and learning approaches [8,13,14]. These outcomes can be fostered through course designs that generate new skill sets, capacities, experiences and that generate awareness of sustainability topics [15,16]. Sustainability taught through experiential learning contributes to the students' understanding of ethics and the ethical obligation as engineers  though this was not a central focus of the study, researchers show a strong link between ethics and sustainability (environment) .
International exchanges in Engineering are important and widely received as valuable [19,20]. This joint summer program aimed at actively engaging students in sustainability education through a practical, hands-on, intercultural experience based on sustainable engineering solutions that benefit communities in remote areas. Through excursions to the Egyptian Delta, desert areas as well as remote areas located along the far southern Red Sea Coast, this course enabled students to contact some of the communities and populations that are supposed to benefit from sustainable technologies. Performing critical needs assessments and discussing sustainable technologies with these communities gave students an insight into the practical challenges of planning and implementation related to sustainable technologies. Students were also given a chance to see and evaluate technologies that were already in place, for example solar pumping technologies and solar drinking water filtration, and learned to critically evaluate these projects in their particular contexts. These activities provided students with a theoretical and practical framework to the hands-on activities they carried out as part of the summer program—the construction and testing of a windmill for pumping. In close partnership with two faculty members and three engineers, the students physically built a windmill tower and a windmill from scratch. They then tested the performance of the windmill on the roof of a campus building and measured pumping rates in comparison with weather and wind speed data measured by a weather station on the same roof. An excursion to Egypt's largest wind park for electricity production, Zaafarana Wind Park, helped the students place wind power into context—the students were able to see with their own eyes the power that wind in particular parts of Egypt can generate.
The combination of practical activities, course discussions, excursions and practical, hands-on activities led by experienced wind engineers gave students the opportunity to get a holistic experience of sustainability through education. Students were critically engaged in planning the next step, in evaluating the performance of the windmill and in discussing whether, based on their measurements, they thought wind pumping made sense in remote areas of Egypt. The students were asked to produce an analysis and report based on the data they had collected of the performance of their windmill, to design and build a 3D model of the windmill, to produce a documentary film and poster about the program, and to write a report on their evaluation of the opportunities for wind powered pumping in the different locations of Egypt they had visited as part of the course. The windmill the students have built will be transferred to the Western Desert location of El Heiz in December 2018, where it will be tested for its pumping performance in open field irrigation in a practical community research location. The field performance of the windmill will be tested against data collected from a weather station mounted on an 8-m tower that is placed next to the windmill. The idea is that future generations of students undertaking the same summer program can build on the existing data from the campus and from the community trial in order to improve the technology.
Funding for this project was provided through a grant (Bartlett Family Fund for Innovation and International Collaboration). The grant was for approximately $34,000 and covered cost of equipment, shipping, travel and living expenses, and a stipend for students for whom this was a paid internship.
The learning outcomes are the skills and knowledge that the student is expected to have attained upon completion of the course. The engineering programs at the American University and Princeton University are ABET-accredited. ABET defines student outcomes as follows: “Student outcomes describe what students are expected to know and be able to do by the time of graduation. These relate to the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that students acquire as they progress through the program.” Each course within the engineering program will have student learning outcomes and meeting these outcomes will prepare graduates to attain the program educational objectives.
ABET has a list of student outcomes (a) through (k); they are listed below as defined by ABET:
an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering
an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data
an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability
an ability to function on multidisciplinary teams
an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems
an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility
an ability to communicate effectively
the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context
a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning
a knowledge of contemporary issues
an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.
For this course, the student learning outcomes are:
to formulate engineering problem and propose solution [ABET outcome (e)].
to understand constraints and work within given constraints to solve problems. [ABET outcome (c)].
to work in interdisciplinary, global, and diverse teams [ABET outcome (d)].
to benefit society and understand the societal impact of engineering and the greater social framework from which engineering projects serve [ABET outcome (h)].
Communication skills: Learn to communicate technical and nontechnical information with people from different backgrounds (technical, socio-economic, language etc.,) [ABET outcome (g)].
The learning outcomes are assessed after completion of the course through a survey and qualitatively by the course instructors.
The course is centered on a hands-on project, which is to install a windmill to pump water for irrigation and to test the performance of the system on site and determine its feasibility for use across other areas in Egypt. In order to achieve this primary objective, the course consisted of three elements:
– Project. This is the core component of the course and involves installation, testing, and modeling of the wind system.
– Field visits. These involve visiting villages across Egypt's diverse geography (including the Delta, desert oases, and remote communities) and evaluating the water needs of the community, understanding energy currently in use for irrigation, and determining whether wind would be feasible at that site.
– Lectures. These provide students with context for the project as well as on-demand information to tackle specific tasks within the course. Students working on this team come from various technical backgrounds and the lectures serve to ensure that students are equipped with the background knowledge and skills needed to complete the project.
The course met six days a week for three weeks in July 2018 in Egypt from morning till early evening. Week 1 was spent at the American University in Cairo campus attending introductory lectures and learning about the project. Week 2 includes the installation of the wind pump system and field visits near Cairo. Week 3 was on a long-distance field visit along the Red Sea coast and additional testing of the wind pump at the American University in Cairo. Figure 1 is a Gantt chart showing the schedule for the three-week course. Week 1 lectures were held in the morning with practical lab activities/demos in the afternoon.
In the design of this first joint pilot program, fieldwork in rural areas played a central role. Giving students an opportunity to get immersed in real life local challenges and to get some hands-on experience in designing solutions to local problems was the key objective of this course. Unfortunately, travel restrictions kept the groups from accessing El Heiz, the pilot location for windmill testing in the Western Desert. In order to give students the opportunity to observe and understand rural challenges of energy and water supply and renewable energy-based solutions to these problems, the course organizers designed a program of excursions replacing the planned week of fieldwork. These excursions, two daytrips and a four-day excursion, brought the participants to locations across Egypt that represent different environmental and cultural contexts and that are shaped by differing needs for renewable energy solutions. Figure 2 is a map of Egypt highlighting field visit locations.
The first day trip took students to the village of Shubra Qubala, located in the Governorate of Monufeya in Egypt's Nile Delta. The village is an example of old farming communities that suffer from increased urbanization and a lack of access to infrastructure and services. In Shubra Qubala, students were able to see the village and its surrounding agricultural areas, as well as several projects implemented by the local development association (some in partnership with AUC). These projects included a drinking water station connected to a groundwater well that is equipped with a solar pump, a large diesel pump station, a waste collection and management project, a local daycare center, and a community garden. The students were asked to produce a sustainability assessment for the village as a whole and for the different projects they had seen, assessing environmental, social and economic aspects that influence sustainability. The students also discussed where and how renewable energy-based technologies could play a role in replacing existing, less sustainable solutions.
A second daytrip took students to farms along the Cairo-Alexandria desert road into areas of recently reclaimed desert land in the Nubariya. In this area, desert reclamation and development have led to farming at two different scales: large and medium farms developed by investors that produce horticultural crops and vegetables, mainly for export, and small-scale farms operated by desert settlers who have moved to the area as part of government resettlement schemes. The students took a tour of three different farms—one medium-sized farm whose owner experiments with aquaponics and hydroponics systems for seedling production, one large mango and date farm that has implemented drip and sprinkler irrigation systems, and the small farm run by a desert settler who has benefited from a solar pumping system implemented in the village by AUC. The students gained an insight into different farming and irrigation techniques in Egypt and were asked to assess where and how they thought wind pumping could play a role in replacing other pumping technologies for irrigation.
The four-day excursion took the group along the Red Sea coast. The excursion started with a visit of St. Anthony's monastery, located in the mountains of the Eastern Desert near the Red Sea coast by Zaafarana. The monastery uses a hybrid system for its power supply that includes diesel generators and a solar photovoltaic system. The second stop was the university campus of the Technical University of Berlin in the coastal resort of El Gouna, where the students were given a tour of the university's technical facilities and renewable energy-related projects. After an overnight stay in Hurghada, the group continued on to the village of Abu Ghusun located within the Wadi El Gamal National Park. The local population, the majority of which belongs to a section of the Ababda Bedouin tribe that has immigrated from Ethiopia and Sudan, is culturally quite distinct from other communities in Egypt. The population is split between goat herders that live nomadic lifestyles far away from civilization in the valleys of the Eastern Desert mountains, and settlers who live in fishing villages along the coast. The students were given a chance to off-road into the desert mountains and meet nomad herders, as well as sitting with members of the Ababda tribe in villages along the coast line. The group visited several local development projects, including a local drinking water filtration station, a sustainable housing project, and a project that distributed drinking water tanks across the valleys for nomad herders. The students also saw solar systems for electricity generation. On the way back from Marsa Alam, the group was given a tour of the Zaafarana wind farm, North Africa's largest wind farm for electricity generation. The Red Sea excursion was designed to give students further insight into the varying needs of Egypt's rural populations as well as different ways in which renewable energy can supply solutions for local problems. Upon their return from the excursion, the students put together a report, assessing the potential of wind pumping at the different sites visited.
At all locations, the students were given the opportunity to interact with local people, to ask questions, discuss ideas, and to get an understanding of real, local needs. Although the students did not get a chance to install the windmill in a local village, as the program had foreseen, they had the opportunity to see different part of Egypt and to explore the environmental, social, and economic aspect of community needs in the country's rural areas. In total, the group traveled over 3000 km as part of the three-week program.
The core component of this field-based course is the project. The project has four deliverables:
Installation and testing of the wind pump system at the American University in Cairo and projection of performance in El Heiz oasis.
Study water/energy issues at various geographic locations including current solutions and prepare report on suitability of wind and solar pumping at these sites. This deliverable is a seed for seeking funding from donors to implement water/energy solutions in these communities.
Develop a model/prototype that can serve as a future analytical tool as well as teaching demo on how the system works.
Prepare a video about the overall experience that appeals to a technical/nontechnical audience. Design a poster highlighting the research project outcomes and present poster at a technical conference.
Deliverable 1 Installation and Testing of Wind Pump System.
Figure 3 shows the complete installation on the rooftop of a building at the American University in Cairo. The tower shown is not the tower that is supplied by the vendor; the vendor supplied tower was not released out of customs and the students had to fabricate a new tower using locally sourced materials.
Figures 4 and 5 show the fabrication of the tower by the students using L-beams from a local supplier and the assembly. The use of locally sourced materials to fabricate a tower (rather than assemble an imported tower which was the initial scope) added a new dimension to the project: dealing with process variability both from the supplier and also tolerances introduced due to inexperienced machining (hand-drilling and sawing) by students. Responding to unexpected issues is part of engineering and learning to work within the constraints of what is available locally is part of doing business, especially in developing countries. Ordering parts online is not yet an option in Egypt so parts had to be found by going store to store to check with individual shop owners or by making them from stock in the University machine shop. Figure 6 shows the gearbox (shown in red) and wheel assembly. The wheel is 1.8 m in diameter and consists of 18 blades. It is connected to the gearbox.
After the tower and wind pump were connected and erected on the rooftop along with the wind brake and the water connections, the students were tasked with coming up with questions and developing a means of answering those questions that center around the performance of the windmill. The questions the students came up with through brainstorming and some guidance from the instructors were:
– What is the performance of the wind mill? How does it vary with wind speed?
– What measurements are needed to determine the performance? How do we make those measurements? How do we measure RPM, strokes per minute, are they related?
– How often do we collect data? How do we deal with large variability in data?
– Is the wind pump performing according to what the supplier specified in the specification sheet?
– What is the uncertainty in each measurement and how does that translate to an uncertainty in the performance parameters?
– How do conditions at El Heiz (the site where this wind pump will be installed ultimately) differ from the conditions on campus where the system is currently installed?
Not all these questions were thought of at the start. Some basic questions were asked initially like what do we measure and as students began making measurements, they found anomalies and began to ask further questions and modify their methods to answer those questions. They began to use multiple sources for the measurement; for example, a hand-held anemometer, Google data for wind speed, and a weather station that provides data on an hour by hour basis (not instantaneous like the anemometer). This in turn led to further questions about frequency of measurements and instantaneous versus averaged data. Table 1 shows preliminary measurements.
Wind speed in Table 1 is measured using a hand-held anemometer. RPM was measured by visually counting the number of revolution of a blade over a 2-min interval by three students. Flow rate was measured using a water meter; the meter reading was recorded at the start and end of the 2-min interval. Strokes per minute of the positive displacement pump were recorded by visually counting the strokes in a 2-min interval by three students.
The manufacturer's performance data are quoted at rated wind speed and are shown in Table 2. Since the data collected onsite are at a much lower wind speed, it is not possible to make comparisons with the supplier information and prove or disprove the performance quoted. Wind speed is not a controlled parameter in the experiment and there can be very large variability over short periods of time; there were even periods of zero wind speed while testing. Wind speeds at the AUC campus are not as high as other locations in Egypt where the wind pump will ultimately be installed.
Figure 9 shows a plot of the pumping capacity of the system at the measured wind speeds. Note that this figure represents the raw data from preliminary measurements. Issues with some of the data points (at wind speed of 3.8 m/s) prompted further refinement of data and analysis methods.
Students learned from attempting to test the system over a few days that it is best to average results over longer periods of time. They also developed a program that looks at historical wind data over time in an effort to develop an uncertainty analysis. They also compared wind data from El Heiz to AUC; however, there was limited data at El Heiz since the weather station had only recently been installed.
Deliverable 2 Report on Suitability of Wind and Solar Pumping.
Students studied four sites that have water/irrigation needs and the energy used for irrigation. They prepared a report on their findings; parts of the report are presented here.
Site 1: New Cairo—AUC Campus.
The campus is located in New Cairo. It has two greenhouses powered by solar energy during the day. It also has drip irrigation systems all around the campus for vegetation cover. The water and power requirements are summarized Table 3.
Site 2: Delta—Shubra Qubala.
This is an agricultural village where most people own land and grow crops such as maize, oranges, potatoes, and some okra. There is a water station where water is pumped from a well and filtered to be made safe for drinking. Wind energy is not advisable for this water station due to high power demands and the availability of a more efficient solar system installed on site.
The village also has a reverse pump that pumps water from the main canal into several subcanals that are directed to farmlands for irrigation purposes. A summary of the data collected from the reverse pump can be found in Table 4.
Site 3: Newly Reclaimed Desert Land—Nubariya.
This area contains large farms that mostly grow mangoes, citrus fruits, dates and avocados. Some farms also have greenhouses that use the hydroponic system, which is a type of soil-less agriculture that effectively uses water and nutrients fed directly into the water. There is also an aquaponic system where fish is kept in a pond, and water from this pond is used for irrigation because it is filled with nitrates and fish excrement, which is good for the plants. Moreover, selling fish is an added source of income for the farmers. Table 5 shows the agricultural information for one of the farms visited in Nubariya.
Site 4: Red Sea—Abu Ghusun and Valleys of Wadi El Gemal National Park.
Abu Ghusun lies opposite the Red Sea coast. The village is made up of a collection of houses with a water tank atop each roof. Currently, the water station that RISE built is not working and the station tanks are empty because the government fills the tanks on people's rooftops instead of filling the water station tanks. Every 15 days, a family's tank is filled with 2000 L of water. For the villagers, this is a better and more convenient solution as they do not have to carry large amounts of water from the water station to their houses. While everyone uses this water for domestic uses, only those who cannot afford buying Nile water use it for drinking. The wealthy villagers opt to buy the Nile water since they prefer its taste more than that of the desalinated water. Sometimes, complications arise at the government's desalination station, which delays the delivery of water to the village. Table 6 shows the water quality measurements made at Abu Ghasun.
In Wadi El Gemal, people are nomadic, so they are constantly moving from one place to another with their goats and camels, which are their main source of income. Whenever they need water, they just go to the well and take what they need from it whether for domestic purposes, drinking, or for their animals. The first well in this area takes 30 min to refill after depleting it. The water salinity in both wells is very high, which is not suitable for growing vegetables. Table 7 shows wind and water data collected at two well locations in Wadi El Gemal.
Deliverable 3 Model/Prototype of Wind Pump System.
A computer aided design (CAD) model for the windmill was created using SolidWorks. While the entire model has not been completed, there are completed and accurate models for the blade fan and the tail and basic representations of the tower and gearbox. These models were completed with future upgrades in mind so they utilize parameterization. Figure 10 shows the CAD model of the fan assembly; this model was 3D printed to make a scaled down prototype that can be displayed in classrooms and workshops to show the workings of the wind pumping system.
Deliverable 4 Communications Video and Poster Presentation.
The students prepared a poster in English and Arabic about the research project. It is available at the Research Institute for a Sustainable Environment and will be presented at a sustainability conference held in Cairo.
In addition, the students prepared a video about the project; the aim is to educate a general audience on wind and also share their experiences with a broader audience. The video is available at the website link1
Student feedback was gathered during discussions toward the end of the program in addition to the online survey students were asked to complete. The survey contained both closed and open-ended questions and generated quantitative and qualitative data about students' program experiences and evaluation. Table 8 shows the demographics and other data about the participants.
What attracted the applicants to the program were the opportunity to gain knowledge and practical experience in sustainable technologies and renewable energy and at the same time getting to know a new country. As one student put it: “I am passionate about the environment and wanted an internship that involved sustainable/renewable energy, but also focused on the social and cultural impacts of the water issue at hand.” Seven out of eight respondents stated that they had previous experience in the topic of renewable energy.
The students' feedback about their program experience was overwhelmingly positive, reflected both at the end of the program discussions and in the online survey. 83% of survey respondents agreed that they had acquired new knowledge and 100% agreed that the program had enabled them to gain new skills. Figure 11 shows the student evaluation of the three major components of the program: lectures, project activities, and excursions with 1 being the highest rating and 5 the lowest. Students rated excursions highest and lectures were average. Of the project activities, the windmill construction and testing were more popular than the reporting activities as shown in Fig. 12. Of the excursions, the Red Sea was the most popular (Fig. 13).
The participants described their overall experience of Egypt in the context of the program as “eye-opening” and “amazing” and stated that they had especially valued the opportunity to talk to people in the field and to get to know cultural perceptions of environment. It was first and foremost the three program excursions to different parts of Egypt that made the students cultural experience so diverse. To the program's already tight travel schedule, the students had added joint private trips to locations within Cairo and beyond that the Egyptian hosts used to show the American visitors their home. “All the trips that were part of the program as well as the ones we did outside the program taught me a lot about Egyptian society and culture and how we, as Egyptians, deal with and view the environment” one student emphasized. Another student thought the overall experience had been “amazing, but not without the help/guidance from the other Egyptian interns.” Traveling and experiencing a country together, as well as working together on solving practical tasks, greatly contributed to the bonding of students from the two universities. All respondents described the fact that this was a joint program between two universities as beneficial.
Several students could not identify any difficulties the program had presented them with, while one of the American participants had experienced the language barrier as difficult when communicating with villagers and project engineers. In order to improve the program experience for future participants, three survey respondents suggested increasing technical content and lecture materials, while providing more opportunities to work in project locations such as Egyptian villages. Several logistical issues related to the import of program equipment and the issuing of travel permits to rural areas had presented practical challenges that demanded several changes to the program that the participants had met with flexibility. Two students felt that better planning could help reduce risks of logistical problems and travel permits; however, these are risks that in a country like Egypt can never be fully eliminated. Overall, the program had achieved its objectives and, despite being the first of its kind and containing a fair amount of trial and error, was experienced by all involved parties, interns, faculty members, trainers, and engineers as an incredibly valuable experience. One student reflected on her program experience as follows: “I learned a lot during the program, and I enjoyed it… I think we learned more on the field than during lectures. Of course the lectures created a foundation for what we did on the field, but without fieldwork, I don't think I would have understood what I learned. Since it was mainly an engineering program, the fact that we got hands on experience creating and assembling the tower was great.”
The student feedback confirmed that designing a sustainability course by employing a practical approach that engages students in decision-making, knowledge building, design, and practical engineering tasks contributes to capacity building and to students becoming actors of sustainability. As one student stated, “As a non-mechanical engineer, I enjoyed learning how to use power tools, and how to make a CAD design, then 3D-print it.” The students valued the variety of skills the program enabled them to acquire, such as “communication skills, data analysis, problem solving, and practical skills,” as one of the students explained. In completing the various program tasks, the students benefited from the diverse background of participants, as the participants taught each other new skills while implementing these activities. By employing a participatory approach to sustainability learning, which in this case involved physically taking students to rural areas where renewable energy technologies are being implemented, created a better understanding of the socio-economic context and project challenges involved in developing technical solutions to real, local problems. Getting into direct contact with the beneficiaries and users of technical solutions in rural areas was a program aspect that even the Egyptian students described as “amazing” and said “interacting with the people was the most interesting part.” As another student explained: “I believe that we don't get as much practical experience in our normal courses at AUC. I also think that we mostly only study ideal situations in engineering courses, so it was nice to get to experience actual situations that might not really fit the ideal models we became accustomed to. You learn to deal with different problems when you're on the field.” The student feedback confirms that a stronger, more direct engagement in sustainability challenges and practices in the field is a key element of developing practical teaching approaches to education as sustainability . Engaging students in real sustainability challenges and enabling them to contribute to the development of solutions in theoretical and practical ways is an important step toward students becoming agents of sustainability.
The participants welcomed the idea of keeping the practical focus for a possible summer course version of the program, but also feared that turning the program into a graded course would take away from the learning experience and have students worry first and foremost about their grades. Another student stated that, given increasing course fees, she would only consider signing up for a summer course model if it counted toward her major.
In addition to providing feedback on the experience, the survey was used to assess ABET outcomes. Students were asked the extent to which the course outcomes were met. Table 9 summarizes the response the question of how well the student agrees with their attainment of each outcome. SA is strongly agree, A is agree, N is neutral, D is disagree, and SD is strongly disagree. The conclusion is that students perceive they have achieved the outcomes through this experiential learning course.
Formulate engineering problem and propose solution [ABET outcome (e)].
Understand constraints and work within given constraints to solve problem [ABET outcome (c)].
Work in interdisciplinary, global and diverse teams [ABET outcome (d)].
Benefit society and understand the societal impact of engineering and the greater social framework from which engineering projects serve [ABET outcome (h)].
Communication skills: Learn to communicate technical and nontechnical information with people from different background (technical, socio-economic, language etc.,) [ABET outcome (g)].
Summary and Reflection.
The quantitative survey results show that the course learning outcomes were met and the field-based pedagogical approach that combined projects, lectures, and field excursions was successful in engaging students and developing their skills. The field visits provided context to the educational experience and the course would not have been the same if this portion was eliminated. The students learned about ethics, local issues, and were able to identify opportunities for implementation of technologies in different communities having seen them work live. This interaction with the end user is essential; otherwise, what happens is that projects are implemented and they sit and rust in the remote community because the community was not consulted or did not completely buy into the project. This is not uncommon in a lot of development projects. So being able to see and work with and meet with community members is essential to implementing projects within that community.
I believe the selection of a good team with equal numbers of male/female, Egyptian/Non-Egyptian, etc., contributed to the success of the course. In a typical class, it is not possible to select the students who enroll (other than based on prerequisite courses or credit hours completed). However, in this course, because of the limited size, the instructors were able to select a good cohort for this pilot. The selection was based on character, likelihood to succeed based on the resume, and ensuring diversity of the team in addition to academics (grade point average).
Students were disappointed in not being able to go to El Heiz as advertised although the replacement excursion to the Red Sea was highly rated. In future courses, we will more clearly notify applicants of the risk of canceling or changing the location of excursions based on last-minute security regulations that the organizers cannot control (even with advanced planning). Assessing the security risk is part of doing field work in Egypt and we need to highlight that more clearly to avoid disappointing participants.
A first conclusion the course produced, based on windmill performance data taken against wind speeds and other weather data during the internship, is that with the smallest windmill model, the pumping performance is limited. As most farmers in El Heiz practice flood irrigation, the performance may be too limited to make a local impact that farmers would evaluate as worthwhile. While the windmill installation in El Heiz primarily has a research focus, not a development implementation one, local farmers were prepared to expect limited results. The students suggested that an enhancement in performance could be reached either by opting for a larger turbine with a bigger pumping capacity or to tailor the use of windmill pumping to specialized and smaller scaled farming needs, for example the irrigation of a drip-irrigated greenhouse. The students had arrived at that conclusion after seeing different farming solutions that applied a variety of growing and irrigation techniques during the program excursions. Thus, one of the program's successes was to encourage students to apply knowledge and ideas collected during different program activities in course discussions, and to bring both theoretical and practical program experiences together for intersectoral problem-solving approaches and integrated thinking about sustainable solutions.
During the project excursion to the village of Abu Ghusun on the far southern Red Sea Coast, the students were given a chance to be directly involved in sustainability decision making with the local village council from an Ababda Bedouin clan. In 2016, AUC had installed a solar powered drinking water purification station in the village that uses an innovative technology to produce chlorine from the water itself and that operates without a need to exchange filter media. Given that the village is disconnected to drinking water pipes connecting the parts of the coast located further north with the Nile Valley, local residents rely on government supplies of desalinated drinking water as their only freshwater source. As locally desalinated water is often deemed too salty for consumption, local residents spend a lot of money on purchasing tanks of fresh water delivered by truck from the Nile Valley, a distance of over 300 km. The drinking water station was designed to solve this problem by further purifying the desalinated water from the government, but had stopped operating because government water supplies had proven unreliable and did not provide sufficient water quantities to operate the station. During the village meeting, the students were invited to take part in, local residents also claimed that access to freshwater from the Nile was classed-based, as only the richer sections of the village were able to afford to buy the large quantities at which regional traders sold the freshwater (a minimum of 1000 m3). During the meeting, the village elders and other council members brought up the idea of running purchased Nile water through the station instead of relying on government supplies of desalinated water—an idea that required an input of $170 to kick off the project. The idea was that villagers would purchase a large tank of Nile water (which is also not always fit for consumption, but not as salty as desalinated seawater), to purify this water again by means of sending it through AUC's water station, and to then sell the purified water by the liter, thus making it available to the entire village at smaller quantities. The students were directly involved in the discussions that surrounded this idea and actively contributed to the sustainability assessment of different options. The project team decided to leave $170 behind to pilot the new idea, agreeing with local villagers on management procedures that had to be put in place in order to make the planned scheme sustainable. When the first tank of water was sold, the villagers had to be in a financial position to independently purchase a new tank. The very real, localized problem solution in the culturally interesting setting of a Bedouin council was an experience that students found memorable and exciting. A few weeks after the program had ended, faculty members were able to inform the student groups that the solution they had contributed to seemed to work successfully—generating at least some form of direct feedback from a local community on program-related activities.
Conclusions and Future Developments
The field experience proved to be educational and a highly effective means of immersing students in a truly collaborative international experience in wind energy and sustainability. Through a hands-on project, students were able to install and test a wind pump as well as develop a CAD model of the system. Field visits throughout diverse geographic regions in Egypt introduced students to water issues throughout various communities and allowed them to understand wind as a possible solution and also identify other technologies in use including ones that may be more effective than wind. The students were able to communicate their project outcomes to a technical audience through a research poster as well as a general audience through an online video with highlights of the project. Though lectures were used throughout, the focus was on learning by doing and the lectures merely supported the hands-on learning by contextualizing and adding needed information as the need arose. The project was able to positively contribute to the remote communities of El Heiz, which will be the beneficiary of the wind pumping system the students tested at AUC and a program for providing the villagers in Abu Ghusun with filtered water was implemented as a direct outcome of discussions and ideas generated during the field visit with the Ababda Bedouin leadership. Student survey results showed that the learning was effective and in the words of one of the students “eye opening” and amazing. “You learn to deal with different problems when you're on the field” and that is exactly the skill engineers need that can never be replicated in a traditional classroom.
The pilot was deemed successful by the American University in Cairo administration and the plan is to offer it as a three-credit hour capstone course in Summer 2019 pending funding. Offering this as a summer course subjects it to meeting a minimum enrollment of 10 registered students from AUC so this will increase the total number of participants from nine students (4 Princeton and 5 AUC) to fourteen (4 Princeton and 10 AUC). The coauthors have applied for another grant to cover the costs of the project. The lessons learned from the pilot will be included in future implementations of the course; these include logistical items like updated cost estimates to reflect costs that were not in the original budget as well as longer lead times on ordering imported items that require customs clearance. We will continue the excursions and hope to build on what was done from year to year so that the beneficiary community continues to benefit from the project and the team continues to develop, expand, maintain, and collect long-term data that extends for more than a few weeks.
The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support provided by the Bartlett Family Fund administered through Princeton University. We would also like to acknowledge the research and technical expertise of Hassan El Husseini (American University in Cairo), Michael Vocaturo (Princeton University), and Douglas Nix (FreeWater Technologies, Ltd), which was critical to the mission and accomplishments of the project. Finally, we would like to acknowledge the students who took part in the project whose passion, commitment, and flexibility made the project a success; they are: Farah Seifeldin, Lena Abdulhafez, Abdallah Aly, Abdelhakim Khaled, and Hussein Seoudi from the American University in Cairo and Nick Nickelson, Lencer Ogutu, Robbie Cohen, and Sierra Castaneda from Princeton University.