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ENGR 260: Engineering Across Cultures

Recommended resources for Engineering 260 students.

Grand Challenges + Principles for Design in the Developing World

The National Academy of Engineering has identified 14 Grand Engineering Challenges of the 21st Century

  • Make solar energy affordable
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advance personalized learning
  • Engineer the tools for scientific discovery

The list addresses four themes considered "essential for humanity to flourish" — environmental sustainability, health, reducing our vulnerability and adding to the joy of living.


Great article to start with: Nine Principles for Design for the Developing World as Derived from the Engineering Literature, which was written by mechanical engineering professors in 2014.

The nine principles are:

(1) Co-design with people from the specific developing world context encourages designer empathy, promotes user ownership, and empowers resource-poor individuals.
(2) Testing the product in the actual setting is an essential part of design for the developing world, not merely a final step.
(3) Importing technology without adapting it to the specific developing world context is ineffective and unsustainable.
(4) Both individuals in urban and rural contexts can benefit from poverty alleviation efforts.
(5) Women and children are more affected by poverty alleviation efforts than men.
(6) Project management techniques that are adapted to the specific developing world context enable a more effective and efficient design process.
(7) Products for the developing world have greater impact when contextualized, developed, and implemented by inter-disciplinary teams.
(8) Cooperation with governments and local influencers contextualizes and enables poverty alleviation plans.
(9) There are existing distribution strategies that can be used to successfully introduce products into developing world markets.

Keyword Development

Here are some keyword ideas to help guide your search, which can be combined with your country and engineering problem:

  • infrastructure 
  • history / historical (consider histor*)
  • politics / political (consider politic*)
  • economy / economics (consider econom*)
  • people 
  • ethnography (study of the customs of individual peoples and cultures)
  • anthropology (study of societies and cultures and their development)
  • values / beliefs / morals 
  • communication
  • design 
  • engineering
  • culture / cultural (consider cultur*)
  • intercultural
  • case study
  • impact / implication
  • poverty alleviation

Remember that in many databases an asterisk * can serve as a wildcard inside of words, giving you results for culture and cultural if cultur* is used.