International outcomes of problem-based sustainability projects.
Panko, Mary; Kudin, Roman; Nderingo, Donald
Citation:Panko, M., Kudin, R., & Nderingo, D. F. (2017, July). International outcomes of problem-based sustainability projects. Aida Guerra (Ed.), 6th International Research Symposium on PBL, Social Progress and Sustainability (pp.20-30).
Permanent link to Research Bank record:http://hdl.handle.net/10652/4095
This case study examines the strengths and weaknesses of a Problem-based learning project conducted at a New Zealand Institute of Technology by international students researching the process and effects of converting a petrol-powered three-wheeled motorised vehicle (Tuk-Tuk) into a battery-powered electric vehicle. Such unmodified vehicles are a significant cause of air pollution and allied social issues in third-world countries. Students were divided into two groups according to their study areas - the first group (two automotive students from Tanzania and Fiji) focused mainly on mechanical aspects of the conversion. The second group (three electrotechnology students from Saudi Arabia) designed the power system and explored the practicality of using solar energy to assist battery recharging. Both groups had specialist supervisors and were expected to collaborate with one another, but all students were asked to develop their own research questions and methodology, focussing on the wider rationale for sustainability within their discipline. The purpose of the current study is to examine the learning experiences of these international students who had participated in this collaborative, interdisciplinary, sustainable transport project. They were expected to undertake all aspects and challenges of a real-world project - theoretical research, design choices, purchasing decisions, dealing with components suppliers, as well as communicating with supervisors and industry bodies. In this process students demonstrated different levels of independence in learning and problem solving skills and the project had a significantly different impact on each student. At the end of the project feedback was sought from all the students on their learning, and the extent to which they thought it might influence their insights into sustainability and their career opportunities upon returning home. Their reflections, together with the responses from the two supervisors, have led to recommendations for future improvements in this form of pedagogy.