You are here

Definition and Goals



Montaña de Luz HIV/AIDS Orphanage project, OSU ECOS student trip, Spring Break 2005, led by Passino, David Bradway (first ECOS president), John Merrill, Roger Dzwonczyk, and Gina Langen. Background is after landing at Tegucigalpa Airport (an interesting experience), Honduras.

“Engineering” can be defined as “the use of science and mathematics to invent, create, design, develop, or improve technologies.” 

“Technology” is often thought of simply as a “tool” that extends human capability (e.g. from hammers to the internet).

“Humanitarian” has been defined as “concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare” (Apple dictionary), which is quite a bit broader than typical interpretations of this word (e.g., it does not just apply to disasters or international work, but local/domestic work). 


Montaña de Luz HIV/AIDS Orphanage, Honduras (MdL in English means "mountain of light", and notice that in the distance, the top of the little mountain is where MdL is located, and luckily it was illuminated), Photo taken by Kevin Passino during Summer 2004 MdL site assessment trip with John Merrill.Humanitarian engineering is the creation of technology to promote human welfare


It is natural, however, to clarify the meaning of "welfare" by defining it as "social justice:" 

"Social Justice" can be defined as “standards for, and a view on how to promote via human interactions, human dignity and human fulfillment for all of humanity.” 

This leads to the modifed definition:

Humanitarian engineering is the creation of technology to promote social justice

But, many people do not know the meaning of "social justice" so a simple generally clear definition is:

Humanitarian engineering is the creation of technologies that help people




Issues Addressed:

Promotion of human dignity, human rights, and human fulfillment. Poverty and development and the relevant workplace, economic, political, and environmental systems. Deep injustices like corruption, human trafficking, arms trafficking, drug trafficking, etc.


Educational Mission:

Undergraduate engineering major with humanitarian engineering minor: Breadth in one engineering discipline, basic understanding of humanitarian engineering, human welfare, and service projects.

MS students: A "master" in one area in one engineering discipline, plus a basic understanding of humanitarian engineering, human welfare, and service projects.

PhD students: Deep knowledge in one topic in one engineering discipline, create new technology or method, leads the field, plus a basic understanding of humanitarian engineering, human welfare, and service projects


Graduates' Characteristics:

  • Competent
  • Creative and curious
  • Global engineers
  • Leaders
  • Cross-cultural
  • Socially responsible
  • Ethical
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Adaptable and flexible
  • Sustainability
  • Multidisciplinary
  • Manage complexity
  • Professional humanitarian engineers


(Adapted from ASEE)

For a publication on the Humanintarian Engineering Center, see: Greg Bixler, Joseph Campbell, Roger Dzwonczyk, Howard Greene, John Merrill, and Kevin M. Passno, "Humanitarian Engineering at The Ohio State University: Lessons Learned in Enriching Education While Helping People," Int. Journal of Service-Learning in Engineering: Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship, pp. 78-96, Fall 2014.

Prof. Kevin Passino, Director, Humanitarian Engineering Center