sealPurdue News

April 30, 2003

NSF helps Purdue engineers expand service-learning nationally

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. ‹The National Science Foundation is honoring Purdue University¹s efforts to put engineering students to work nationwide solving community problems arding $2.5 million to support expansion of Purdue¹s Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS).

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"EPICS has become the national model for service-learning – integrating community service into academics," said Linda P.B. Katehi, the John H. Edwardson Dean of Engineering. "Now, this grant recognizes Purdue’s leadership and establishes Purdue as the headquarters for this growing national program."

Already, Purdue’s program has spread to campuses nationwide and continues to expand through partnerships with other service agencies, such as Habitat for Humanity International. Closer to home, 300 Purdue students on two dozen EPICS teams have developed projects ranging from homelessness prevention to environmental protection to creating toys for children with disabilities.

Some of the NSF money will be used to develop EPICS programs at additional universities during the next five years. NSF also will fund the development of a software infrastructure for course management, support faculty development workshops and provide funds for evaluation and research of particular aspects of the EPICS model. The Purdue School of Education will be participating in the evaluation process.

"Purdue has already spun off programs to nine other universities," said William Oakes, EPICS co-director and assistant professor in freshman engineering. "EPICS and the faculty associated with it have won numerous national awards. We are very grateful for the support that EPICS has received from the NSF and Purdue as we continue to grow and develop the program on our own campus and across the nation."

EPICS sites at Butler University, Case Western Reserve University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Iowa State University, Penn State University, University of Illinois, University of Notre Dame, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez and University of Wisconsin have joined the National EPICS program since it was created in 1999. Also, in the founding year, Microsoft Corp. became a corporate sponsor. A national conference and workshops were initiated in 2002. An advisory council also is being formed.

Leah H. Jamieson and Edward J. Coyle, professors of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue, co-founded EPICS in 1995. In the program, teams of undergraduates earn academic credit for multiyear, multidisciplinary projects that solve engineering- and technology-based problems for community service and education organizations.

"In a few short years, we have successfully established formal channels through which already more than 1,000 students around the nation are involved in long-term community-based engineering projects," said Jamieson, Ransburg Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "In another few years, this amount will be several more thousand students nationwide. The National Science Foundation and other supporters and corporate sponsors of the program help Purdue in spreading its important mission."

Writer: Marydell Forbes, (765) 496-7704,

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

Leah Jamieson, (765) 494-3653,

Heather Connell (765) 494-3750,

PHOTO CAPTION: Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) student Brian Powell, a sophomore in the School of Mechanical Engineering from Mishawaka, Ind., has designed toys for disabled children at the Wabash Center in Lafayette, Ind. EPICS, founded at Purdue in 1995, allows teams of undergraduates to earn academic credit for projects that solve engineering- and technology-based problems for community service and education organizations. (Photo courtesy of EPICS.)

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