sealPurdue News

May 16, 2003

Purdue to host national engineering service-learning conference

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The national conference for Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) on May 19-21 will bring together leaders in engineering service-learning from around the country to Purdue University.

The conference will include a discussion of the future of the national EPICS program by Leah Jamieson, EPICS director and Purdue’s Ramsburg professor of electrical and computer engineering; William Oakes, co-director of EPICS and an assistant professor of freshman engineering at Purdue; and Heather Connell, EPICS’ national coordinator.

At a welcome banquet on Monday (5/19), Purdue President Martin C. Jischke will speak about how programs, such as EPICS in which engineering students design and complete extensive projects for community organizations, help to fulfill a university’s responsibility for public engagement.

The conference will bring together representatives not only from the 10 universities that are part of the EPICS program, but also from universities that are considering adding EPICS or a similar service-learning program to their engineering curriculum. Connell said representatives from at least 14 universities are expected to attend the conference.

The conference comes in the wake of the announcement that the National Science Foundation has granted Purdue $2.5 million to expand the program throughout the country. The money will be used to set up the program on other campuses, create dissemination materials and develop a software infrastructure for course management; support faculty development workshops and research, and evaluate portions of the EPICS model.

A year ago EPICS entered into a national partnership with Habitat for Humanity.

"Students at Purdue and the University of Wisconsin-Madison are engaged in a joint project to design multimedia volunteer training materials for Habitat," Connell said. That is just the start of the possibilities of cross-campus collaboration. EPICS is at a turning point in becoming a major national initiative."

EPICS began in 1995 when two electrical and computer engineering professors, Edward J. Coyle and Leah H. Jamieson, established the first engineering service-learning program at Purdue. EPICS was organized to develop and to promote experiential, multidisciplinary education to develop students’ technical skills to meet community service agencies’ needs.

"Multidisciplinary engineering projects mirror the types of work students will be doing in the marketplace and are the future of engineering education," Oakes said. "By adding a service component to that type of education, EPICS provides a valuable experience for both the students and the not-for-profit organizations involved."

The Purdue program has since grown to involve 350 students on 24 project teams and is a model for engineering service learning throughout the nation. Since the national EPICS program was founded in 1999, nine schools have added EPICS to their engineering curricula.

EPICS teams currently include more than 1,300 students at 10 participating campuses: Purdue, the University of Notre Dame, Iowa State University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Georgia Institute of Technology, Penn State University, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Illinois, the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez and Butler University.

The conference is open to the public and media.

Writer: Matt Holsapple, (765) 494-2073,

Sources: William Oakes, (765) 494-3892,

Heather Connell, (765) 494-3750,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Leah Jamieson, William Oakes and Heather Connell will speak from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Tuesday (5/20) in Stewart Center, Room 310. Jischke will speak at 7 p.m. on Monday (5/19) in the West Faculty Lounge of the Purdue Memorial Union.

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