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Engineering Peace: Drexel Joins PeaceTech Lab in Global Mission to Use Technology for Resolving Conflicts

July 27, 2015

PeaceTech Lab

Drexel's College of Engineering is partnering with PeaceTech Lab, a non-profit entity created by the U.S. Institute of Peace, to teach students about humanitarian engineering and how technology is being used to build peace in conflict zones around the world. 


Drexel University engineering researchers and students are joining an international effort led by PeaceTech Lab, a non-profit entity launched by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), to prepare the next generation of humanitarian engineers. The PeaceTech Lab’s Young Engineers Program seeks to use the skills of talented young technologists in service of communities in conflict zones around the world who are seeking to create a sustainable peace.

Through a recently signed agreement, Drexel has become the program’s first academic partner and will launch courses this fall in conflict management for engineers.

PeaceTech Lab brings together engineers and activists, MBAs and conflict experts, social scientists and data scientists to develop new ways of amplifying the power of technology, media and data to prevent violent conflict. USIP is a federally mandated organization that works to mitigate violent conflict around the world through research, training and programs on the ground.

“Technology has a critical role to play in the peacebuilding process” said Sheldon Himelfarb, president & CEO of the PeaceTech Lab. “The Lab’s mission is to design technology tools that can help drive positive change in places like Kenya, Columbia, Afghanistan, Sudan and Nepal. To do this, the field of peacebuilding needs more technology talent, and this is where we see the tremendous value that Drexel’s students and faculty can lend.”

The agreement paves the way for Drexel’s College of Engineering, PeaceTech Lab, and USIP’s Academy for International Conflict Management & Peacebuilding to develop a series of online courses that teach skills and global awareness to complement the traditional technical training that students receive. In fall 2015, Drexel plans to pilot an online curriculum called Peace Tech: Conflict Management for Engineers, which will provide a foundation in such skills as conflict analysis, negotiation and mediation using real-world scenarios from some of world’s most dangerous places.

“This is an excellent opportunity for engineering students to learn about a different kind of leadership and broaden their perspective of how their training can be put to use,” said Joseph Hughes, PhD, dean of the College of Engineering. “Peace technology engineering doesn’t necessarily involve radical new technology or engineering principles, but for many of us it’s a new application of our expertise and it challenges all of us to be cognizant of the origin of this field: to help improve quality of life through thoughtful innovation.”

The goal is ultimately to introduce a range of “Peace Engineering” courses into Drexel’s online course catalog. These courses would broaden Drexel’s offerings in humanitarian engineering and support the University’s mission to become a beacon of good citizenship.

“This initiative furthers Drexel’s goal of becoming the most civically engaged university in the nation,” said Drexel President John A. Fry. “In PeaceTech Lab we have found a partner that shares our vision of using education, engineering and technology as tools for enabling a brighter future for our neighbors around the corner and around the world.”

The partnership will also create new co-operative education opportunities for Drexel students at PeaceTech Lab. Beginning in the spring of 2016, PeaceTech Lab will become a destination for students participating in the Drexel Co-op program, where they will be able to work alongside the Lab’s top minds in diplomacy and peacebuilding at its new facility in USIP’s headquarters on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.