24/7 news has inundated us with stories from the U.S. and across the globe of natural disasters and their effects on terrain, climate, municipal systems, and residential and commercial property. The news is not exactly uplifting, but it has raised the overall awareness on the importance of humanitarian engineering and the benefits it brings. While disasters raise the consciousness of the population and shed light on the topic, humanitarian engineering is most often utilized in the context of ordinary day-to-day life; it can, though, be utilized in the school setting.

What Is Humanitarian Engineering?

According to The Greek Herald, “Humanitarian Engineering involves the design, building, and use of machines and structures to assist communities at risk.”

Humanitarian engineering seeks out solutions for improving access to sanitation, heat, water, shelter, and larger markets tied to the developed world. Humanitarian engineering has been around for a long time, but the actual term wasn’t commonplace until the early 2000s, as it became a defined area of specialization.

What are the Benefits to High School Students?

Many colleges and universities have humanitarian engineering programs. It is a reputable program of study that prepares students for life-improving and life-saving work. Even if students choose another field of study in college, exposure and awareness of humanitarian engineering and its various purposes give students a wider and more comprehensive view of the world and challenges that many developing nations face. In short, it makes them better global citizens: they may choose a field of study indirectly related to humanitarian engineering, volunteer their time, or become a financial contributor to related causes.

Ways to Embrace Humanitarian Engineering in High School

While there is not a lot of literature on humanitarian engineering as it relates to high school courses of study, this does not mean it is not being discussed or included in high school coursework. Within the high school curriculum, the potential uses for it within student learning are plentiful.

Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning has been a common mode of study for a couple of decades now. It would be an excellent way to incorporate the field of humanitarian engineering in actual and hypothetical scenarios. If going off campus to other community locations is possible, students would have hands-on experiences in aiding communities of need as they learn alongside professionals doing the work.

Hypothetical scenarios are also a possibility as the work of humanitarian engineering is simulated for students through instructional technology and other means. While this would not include a real scenario, it would put students in a position to have to think through and problem solve as humanitarian engineers regularly do.

Distance Learning

Technology can facilitate links to areas where the work of humanitarian engineering is being done. Observing work being done and interacting with professionals on site are possibilities. 


STEM classes are excellent opportunities to learn about the latest advancements in technology and how that is being used by humanitarian engineers across a wide array of platforms.

Course Specific

High schools can create specific humanitarian engineering courses, and the vocational “schools of technology” can add humanitarian engineering as a field to major in.

Cross-Curricular Units

Math, language arts, science, civics, and social studies can each cover an angle of humanitarian engineering, whether it’s about the actual math and science that goes into solving the challenges of engineering, the role politics plays, or the human element as communities, families, and individuals face real adversity on a daily basis.


Schools can facilitate humanitarian engineering experiences as part of a student’s required community hours needed to graduate. This would be a great civic learning opportunity for students.

As the field of humanitarian engineering grows, more high school students will readily identify it as a potential field of study for college. Consequently, high schools will add more courses that cover this topic, as it becomes as commonplace as teaching, law, medicine, law enforcement, and other fields.