In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a global compass for achieving human and economic development that is both environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive.
Engineering and technology will play a prominent role in the achievement of the SDGs, thus requiring a generation of engineers prepared also as development practitioners, equipped to confront the multi-dimensional complexities of development challenges.
The Villanova Sustainable Engineering for International Development Initiative aims to meet this challenge.
The Villanova Sustainable Engineering for International Development Initiative
This initiative brings together two synergistic programs that have developed in parallel in the College of Engineering over the past decade: The Sustainable Engineering graduate program and the Villanova Engineering Service Learning (VESL) program. In pursuit of innovative solutions to the SDGs, the Sustainable Engineering for International Development Initiative takes an integrated approach involving:
- Curriculum: The International Development Track takes the whole systems, life-cycle approach embedded in the Sustainable Engineering graduate program and applies it to the application of engineering and technology to sustainable development objectives globally.
- Collaboration: Linking the classroom to the field, VESL’s longstanding partnerships with international development organizations helps to facilitate experiential learning opportunities while ethically engaging with local stakeholders and contributing to partners’ work in the field.
- Applied Research: Bringing together content expertise from College of Engineering faculty, the contextual expertise of VESL’s partners, and whole-systems frameworks from Sustainable Engineering enables us to add value to partner efforts through technological innovation, external third-party project evaluation, and training & capacity strengthening initiatives.
Top research areas include water, sanitation & hygiene (WaSH) infrastructure and services, renewable energy, and information and communications technologies for development (ICT4D).
Through our flagship Sustainable WaSH research initiative, since 2013 a Villanova team has worked to develop tools for objective, continuous monitoring of water supply systems to inform decision-making for project partners and to provide valuable information to system operators.
Examples of recent and current research projects in Sustainable Engineering for International Development include:
- Baseline studies of sanitation services for informal urban settlements in Liberia and Ghana.
- Third-party evaluation of a pilot project involving the installation of prepaid smart meters at communal water fetching points in Tanzania.
- Development of a GIS-based asset management system for hand-pump water supply systems in Ghana.
- Evaluation of feedstocks for anerobic digestion in rural Indonesia.
- Incorporation of climate change models into feasibility evaluations for small-scale wind energy projects in Peru.
- Development of a Raspberry Pi based education platform for rural schools in Cambodia.