Study Abroad

CEE 4915 – International Engineering Field Experience

The International Senior Design (iDesign) Program provides a unique capstone design experience that involves service learning in an international, multicultural context.

Students work on engineering design teams under the guidance of faculty and partner organization advisors to serve the needs of community clients. Students experience a design project from the initial stages of needs assessment and project conception through the stages of design and documentation, while gaining an intercultural perspective from working and learning in another country.

Two-Semester Capstone Design Experience

Assessment Trip to Panama

CEE 4915 takes place during summer, Track B, including a two-week international experience.

Senior Design Project

CEE 4916 takes place on campus in the fall.

General Timeline


  • Application and deposit are due.
  • The preliminary project is planned (meetings).
  • The team formation is discussed.
  • Pre-entry is assessed.
  • There is a surveying session.


  • Trip takes place in August, at the end of the Summer Track B session (CEE 4915).
  • Team assessment report is due.


  • Design work is completed, in coordination with community and other partner organizations
  • Final team report is due (CEE 4916).

iDesign 2023 Trip to Panama

Spring 2023

  • Application Due Date: 3/20/2023 (approx.)
  • Lab Fee: $985
  • Deposit: $100 (refunded after trip)
  • Deposit Due Date: 3/20/2023 (approx.)
  • 3 Credit Cost: $1,887 (based on 2021-22 resident tuition)

Summer 2023

  • Summer Track B Start Date: 6/26/2023
  • Trip Start Date: 8/12/2023 (approx.)
  • Flight Meet-up Location: Typically Chicago O’Hare International Airport
  • Trip Return Date: 8/22/2023 (approx.)
  • Summer Track B End Date: 8/10/2023 (course is extended for study abroad trip)
  • Team Assessment Report Due Date: 8/24/2023 (approx.)

Fall 2023

  • Fall Semester Start Date: 9/5/2023
  • Final Team Report Due Date: 12/15/2023


  • CEGE majors can join, as well as other engineering majors with approval. Other engineering majors may have additional capstone design requirements. Check your undergraduate flow charts.
  • Non-engineering majors may participate in CEE 4915 as an elective.
  • CEE 4915 is an elective for those minoring in Humanitarian Engineering.
  • This study abroad program may serve as a required immersion experience for those pursuing the Peace Corps Prep certificate.
  • The Michigan Tech chapter of Engineers Without Borders encourages members to participate in study abroad programs.

Expect to join 8–12 students and two instructors. There are 3–5 students per design team. In forming teams, we consider:

  • Interests
  • Expertise
  • Experience
  • Diversity of backgrounds
  • Spanish skills


Panama City, Panama


Summer Track B session, where the trip is approximately 10 days in mid-August.

What Will You Do?

Visit communities to assess needs and collect site data for an infrastructure design project.

  • Teams travel together to project sites.
  • A team will act as a professional design consultant.

View More Projects

Ship traversing a narrow canal.
People near a river with one person on horseback.
Person surveying in a jungle environment.
Group of children smiling and pointing at the camera.


Consider registering for the following courses:

  • Courses in Surveying and AutoCAD are highly recommended.  
  • Industry surveying and AutoCAD experience is just as valuable.
  • SS 3961 is highly recommended.

For students outside of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering, you must consult your advisor and/or department head to verify Senior Design or Technical elective credits.


The class will meet up at a major hub (such as Chicago O’Hare) and then travel together by air to Panama City, Panama.


A positive attitude, adaptability, and interest in another culture! Competent hiking skills, a letter of reference from another instructor, and a passport. Must be senior project ready as defined by major department.  

Course Cost

Lab fee (TBD) and 3 credits. Fee includes all transportation, course materials, housing and meals (or per diem) in Panama, and travel insurance. Students are responsible for any required or recommended vaccinations and prescription medicines.

Project Completion

At the end of the visit, each team will complete an assessment report to be provided to the community and other project partners. Students then return to campus to complete a one-semester design course (CEE 4916) in the fall semester. By the end of the fall term, each team will deliver a final report, design drawings, a formal end-of-project presentation, and other final products to their organization and/or community partner. 


Contact David Watkins, Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering ( for more information and to apply for a spot in the class!

David Watkins, PE

David Watkins, PE

Distinguished Professor, Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering

Teaching Statement

Dr. Watkins teaches on topics of water resources, natural resources, field service, and engineering with developing communities.

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