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‘Training the trainers’ is theme in third year of MU-Iraqi faculty workshops

Participants in the IREX workshops pose in the classroom.

Throughout the Fall 2015 semester, MU mechanical engineering C.W. LaPierre Professor Sanjeev Khanna is officiating a series of three workshops for visiting Iraqi faculty as part of the University Linkage Program (ULP), funded by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and administered by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX). From left to right: Waled Habib, Montadher Sami, Falal Hatem, Matt Belcher, Jalal Jalil, Sanjeev Khanna. Photo courtesy of Sanjeev Khanna.

Throughout the Fall 2015 semester, MU mechanical engineering C.W. LaPierre Professor Sanjeev Khanna is officiating a series of three workshops for visiting Iraqi faculty as part of the University Linkage Program (ULP), funded by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and administered by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX).

In the third year of the collaboration, Khanna is “training the trainers,” presenting professors from the University of Technology in Baghdad (UOT-Baghdad) with information, materials and strategies to share with other faculty that they can incorporate into their curricula. The workshops are on topics of energy efficiency, problem-based learning (PBL) and ABET accreditation. Vlad Likholetov, director of international partnerships & initiatives for the College of Engineering, is responsible for logistics and management of the workshops.

Khanna explained that the two-week-long energy efficiency workshop, which concluded Oct. 19, is especially crucial for Iraqis in higher education and those in the business sector because of the energy crisis the country is experiencing. And because energy production is low in Iraq at present, energy costs are high.

“There currently is no infrastructure [in Iraq],” said Khanna. “We are trying to assist them with ways to use their available power optimally and educate prospective engineers by incorporating fundamentals of energy in their curriculum. We also are training them on how to evaluate industries to look at their energy profiles and reduce consumption.”

Included in the energy symposium was a two-day training workshop led by Matt Belcher, an award-winning homebuilder/developer who serves on the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) board of directors and its green building, energy and building codes and standards sub-committees. Belcher shared information about new building techniques and materials that are not only energy-efficient but also make structures safer, healthier and more valuable.

Participants also attended a healthy homes workshop delivered by Michael Goldschmidt, national program director of Healthy Homes Partnership. The participants received certification from the NAHB and Healthy Homes Partnership for the respective training workshops.

“It was very interesting to discuss with them the situation with buildings back home in Iraq and the issues with energy and resiliency that need to be addressed,” Belcher said. “I am hopeful the information I shared with them will be of direct help in that effort.”

Iraqi mechanical engineering Professor Jalal Jalil is attending all three training sessions. He said three primary informational goals of the energy workshop were attained: energy efficiency in industrial practice; green housing experience, especially as it relates to energy efficiency; and building energy efficiency course materials.

“[Matt’s workshop] showed us many useful methods to apply energy efficient practices in the building sector,” Jalil said. “We hope to apply what we learned from the visit in Iraqi industries and general buildings.”

Khanna said the workshops are fairly extensive, and the trainers will now go back and share what they have learned, increasing the impact of the effort.

“I’m hoping that at some point, we can bring in someone from the government in Iraq and other entities to develop a plan to retrofit or make some of their buildings more efficient,” said Khanna. “We can assist them to make it part of their system and policy.”

The workshop on problem-based learning for Iraqi engineering and science faculty will show the Iraqi faculty how to incorporate the teaching strategy into their curriculum and improve teaching effectiveness.

“The idea is to have better engagement of learning,” said Khanna. “By making them more engaged in their own education, problem-based learning helps students manage their own time, makes them more responsible for learning the material and increases subject matter retention.” Khanna and Andy Winholtz, MU associate professor of mechanical engineering, are delivering the week-long PBL workshop.

The final workshop will be on ABET accreditation, Khanna said, because Iraqi universities are motivated to gain legitimacy and outside recognition. It will help Iraqi faculty to conduct ongoing curriculum review and modify it to model internationally recognized accreditation standards.