First-year engineering students are teaming up with third- and fourth-year history students for the first time on a collaborative project to develop solutions for small mixed farms on PEI. Last month, the students were treated to a lesson in farming where they met with farmers and individuals from the Island farming community to chat about the reality of local farming problems.
UPEI’s “Engineering Design 2: Analysis” course is the first chance engineering students get to work on real social problems. Students work in teams of four to come up with an understanding of a broad problem, then imagine a solution, do detailed design work, and finish off by producing a prototype of something to test and demonstrate.
The engineering students are then matched up with history students who act as consultants to guide the engineering students with lessons on the history of PEI through the lens of farming. The history students provide needful context and potential lessons from the Island’s past.
“This project and the linkage between Professor MacDonald’s history class with my engineering design class lets the students see a real-life application of understanding our past in order to invent the future for PEI industries,” said Dr. Andrew Trivett, associate professor and chair of UPEI’s Department of Engineering.
“I’m particularly concerned that our history students experience their research being applied to real-life simulations,” said Dr. Ed MacDonald, associate professor of history. “It helps them understand how their skills can be used outside of the classroom and in the future. Working with the engineering students is excellent exposure to the process that Andy describes.”
Students were interested to find out what real farming issues looked like and were eager to chat with individuals from the farming community to ensure they better understood the industry. The students learned that resource scarcity, population growth, and climate change were among some of the core problems. Project topics include—buildings, machinery, and energy sources—each of which have an unfolding history on PEI.
Farming industry guests included Gary Hughes, Hughes Hill Family Farms; Diane and Marty Taylor, Island Taylored Meats; Phil Ferraro, Institute for Bioregional Studies Ltd.; Sally Bernard, Barnyard Organics; and Kevin MacNeill, MacNeill Farms and Tourist Home.