Our Course

Real Engineering Under Real Conditions

This is a two-unit course, over the course of two semesters. Over the course of one year, USC students in Los Angeles and refugees in host nations will form a task-force to seek at least four life-saving or life-improving innovations aimed at the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach people impacted by the refugee crisis.

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These innovations will involve a connection to the private sector and input from affected communities in order to provide, supply, or locally generate solutions such as safe drinking water and sanitation, energy, life-saving information, or health supplies and services to help refugees living in camps and in squats.

Plan of Action

Woman Hard At Work

Semester one will be spent researching and validating chosen problems as well as building and testing early prototypes in chaotic environments. Projects that move to transition-to-scale in semester two will undergo intense testing and engagement of the private sector and major stakeholders to prepare them for implementation.

What can I expect this year? 

Over the course of two semesters, Part I (Fall) and Part II (Spring), students at USC will collaborate with fellow innovators, some of whom come from the context of the global refugee crisis, faculty, and industry advisors to develop a keen sense of design and innovation strategies and apply them to scalable, social entrepreneurship ventures.

Course Objectives: At a Glance

With direct input from affected communities, NGOs and government agencies on the frontlines, expert faculty and private sector advisors, teams will respond to the current challenges posed by the global refugee crisis guided by the real experts in the field – refugees themselves. Utilizing rapid product design and prototyping techniques, teams will employ research methodologies and readily available resources to create sustainable, human-centered solutions to issues such as integration, economic opportunity, health, education, human rights and security.

What can I expect from weekly class meetings?

Teaching methods and class participation

A strong concentration on professor and peer-to-peer collaboration in a workshop-style class with both in-person and virtual attendees from across the globe. Weekly meetings take the form of a mastermind session with a combination of guest lectures by world experts, dynamic discussions, design feedback workshops and hands-on sessions.

As a student, it is your responsibility to…

  • Provide weekly status updates on your team’s progress and prototypes
  • Provide other teams with constructive feedback and participate in class discussions
  • Commit to the required additional out-of-class time for prototyping, customer discovery, and fieldwork, some of which will require overseas travel to a refugee camp or squat.
  • You will be responsible for conducting regular meetings with your USC team and global partners
  • Use a Design Journal to document process, prototypes, reports, presentations and reflections

Collaboration, Communication, and Information 

Course Resources

The syllabus contains a weekly course breakdown, recommended reading and more information about assignments, grading, and the Design Journal.

You can access the syllabus by clicking HERE (CE 499 Course Syllabus)

Communication Software

This course involves the continued partnership contributors outside of USC. Students will be expected to communicate with both classmates and remote partners via free-to-use, globally available collaboration software, which include but are not limited to:       Asset 1

Instructors and Coordinator

Office hours will be held 5pm to 7pm on Thursdays at KAP 224C. Instructors and the coordinator will also be available via email and course communication tools.

Burcin Becerik-Gerber, Associate Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Office: KAP 224C. Email: becerik@usc.edu. Phone: 213-740-4383

David Gerber, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Practice and of Architecture.

Office: KAP 224D. Email: dgerber@usc.edu. Phone: 213-740-2723

Brad Cracchiola, Part time Lecturer of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Office: TBD. Email: bcracchiola@gmail.com. Phone: TBD

Daniel Druhora, Coordinator

Office: 1150 S. Olive St Suite 1510 Los Angeles, CA. Email: druhora@usc.edu. Phone: 619-961-6633