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Award-Winning Professor John Aidoo Helps Civil Engineering Students Have Global Influence

Monday, August 24, 2015
John Aidoo With Student

Love Of Teaching: John Aidoo, the 2015 Dean's Outstanding Teacher Award winner, says: "Taking something complex and getting others to understand and appreciate it makes my day." (Photo by Shawn Spence)

John Aidoo doesn't rest on his laurels.

Several weeks after being awarded the 2014 Dean's Outstanding Teacher Award, the civil engineering professor was in the classroom helping grade- and middle-school teachers integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts into their classrooms to encourage future generations of scientists and engineers.

Later this summer, Aidoo mentored groups of rising high-school seniors on how to construct buildings to withstand earthquakes, create walk-on-water devices, and learn elements of truss design during two sessions of the Operation Catapult program.

In between, Aidoo also found time to join faculty colleagues in examining how to adapt creativity, curiosity, and value creation into the Department of Civil Engineering's concrete design courses.

"I love being in the classroom, and helping others learn something new," he says. "Because education is such a creative process, in most cases, I'm joining them in these new learning experiences."

Aidoo, a member of the Rose-Hulman faculty since 2005, is known for his thoughtful organization, his engaging lectures, his use of YouTube videos to showcase real-world examples, and being a faculty mentor for the American Society of Civil Engineering's Excellence in Civil Engineering Education program.

His classroom extends internationally as co-advisor for Rose-Hulman's student chapter of Engineers Without Borders, which has completed several humanitarian projects. He has also helped broaden students' horizons through senior-year global design projects in his native land of Ghana.

One of the most ambitious projects had a Rose-Hulman team collaborating with students from Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology to design buildings and infrastructural facilities for a new inland port at Boankra, near Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of the African country. The port was commissioned by the Ministry of Transport to transform Ghana into a major manufacturing, processing, and multi-modal transportation hub.

John Aidoo Teaching

Making A Difference: John Aidoo, associate professor of civil engineering, is co-advisor of the Engineers Without Borders' student chapter, and has mentored several international senior-year design projects in his native land of Ghana.

Also, other student teams designed plans for a library, community center, and technical school for Ghana's Gomoa Gyaman community, and planned a multi-story Catholic mission school building, accommodating at least 1,000 students, and compound in Phaitol, India.

"These projects motivate our students and bring focus to their classroom experiences. They can see how they're making a difference by shaping the world for others," says Aidoo, a graduate of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. "These projects hit home for me, but they're important to our students as well."

Aidoo was motivated to make a difference after leaving his homeland in 2000 to attend graduate school at the University of South Carolina, eventually earning a doctorate while specializing in structural retrofit of reinforced concrete bridges. He gained industry experience working in bridge design and construction with the South Carolina Department of Transportation, before returning to the classroom at Rose-Hulman. He became a United States citizen in 2013.

"Teaching was my first love," he says. "It's fun. My ultimate experience is that 'light-bulb moment' when the student knows the concept as well as me. You can see their eyes light up, and a smile comes to their face. Taking something complex and getting others to understand and appreciate it makes my day."

The Dean's Outstanding Teacher Award recognizes professors who have demonstrated outstanding abilities as a teacher, through attention and dedication to students, both in and out of the classroom, according to Richard Stamper, interim vice president for academic affairs. Students nominated over 60 percent of eligible faculty members for the 2014 award.