Introductory Engineering: “ABCDEng”


Launched in 2016, the Introductory Engineering Course “ABCDEng” emerged as a higher education response to provide high-quality undergraduate education for refugees by focusing on engineering design and community development. It is currently running in Azraq refugee camp in Jordan and Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, and over 50 students have participated in the course since its inception. The uniqueness of the context has also received a significant amount of attention from the broader engineering education research community.


A group of students in Kakuma refugee camp reproduce an electronic circuit during the 3-day pre-course workshop. Photo: Purdue University, 2018


Based on research on education in emergency settings and collaborations with international partners and local agencies, we have created a sustainable framework which we call an active, blended, collaborative, democratic engineering framework, or “ABCDEng” for short.

This approach can be disseminated and implemented in other displaced settings, and we are working with partners to scale up this integrated approach.

It integrates years of educational and technical research into a high quality approach that empowers displaced students to apply what they have learned to community needs. With the perspective of this framework, we will continue to share our findings and recommendations with the educational community acting in emergency settings.

The ABCDEng course was designed as a high-quality, continually assessed opportunity for students taking Higher Education coursework to gain relevant skills. It covers technical concepts in electronics and programming and professional engineering skills, such as teamwork, analytical skills, communication, and engineering thinking. These areas are supported under an umbrella of engineering design.

The course includes 24 faceto-face sessions (120 minutes in length) and takes place over approximately five months in a blended learning environment. The engineering curriculum used in this course develops technical competencies and guides students through the principles of electronics, programming, and solar energy. As a guiding goal throughout the course, students use the engineering design process to identify problems in the community and apply their knowledge to find a solution.

The course is typically facilitated in three phases – a 3-day workshop (to provide students with insight into what to expect from participation), a 12-week blended learning period (where students identify a problem in their local community and devise a solution as well), and a capstone project presentation (which includes presenting prototypes of their solutions, the design process, and the roles of all team members).

Students are encouraged to continue to work on their capstone projects after the course is completed to develop initial prototypes into full-fledged solutions that would be of benefit to their local communities. Although less structured than the actual course, the independent projects afford passionate students an opportunity to continue to engage in learning and collaborative engagements long after the course has officially ended.