designBridge: Integrating Transportation into Service Learning Design/Build Projects

Nico Larco, University of Oregon



This OTREC educational project joins transportation related issues with community oriented projects through the interdisciplinary work of designBridge, a student-based organization focused on service learning design/build projects. designBridge is based in the Department of Architecture within the School of Architecture & Allied Arts at the University of Oregon. It has members from various departments including Planning, Public Policy, and Management (PPPM), Landscape Architecture, Business, Geography, and Art. Its mission is to employ a service learning model that exposes students to actual architectural and planning projects within the community. OTREC’s funding supported a transportation-based project during the 2008-09 academic year, exposing students from a range of disciplines to transportation issues while providing a needed transportation-based service to the local community. designBridge offers significant benefits to students, the local community, and the University as a whole. As a pedagogic model, the service learning structure of designBridge promotes students’ engagement in their community while having real world experience related to the process of design and construction. Students were asked to assess the needs of the surrounding community, to understand the value of skills they are learning at the University, to apply those skills to a project, and to provide a needed service. Through this, students were exposed to a diverse range of individuals and community entities in our own area and were introduced to opportunities outside of the typical career trajectory. During the course of this project, students were responsible for client contact, community outreach, project design, development, and final construction. The project identified and discussed in the initial proposal was for Roosevelt Middle School in Eugene, Oregon. Roosevelt was already a participant in the national Safe Routes to School program and had identified the need for a re-design of its current bicycle shelter, as well as general bicycle and alternative transport access onto the school property and the designated shelter area. The condition of the existing bike storage was perceived as a general deterrent to increasing bicycle use and to promoting non-auto Safe Routes to School incentives, such as access to a “Freikometer” (frequent biker meter). designBridge utilized the requested funding to promote an interchange of ideas between the middle school community and university students and for design development of the actual bicycle shelter/access. All labor for the design, drawings and permitting was provided by University students, with participation of representative Roosevelt Middle School faculty, students, active parents, staff and community. It was intended that funds & materials for the construction of the shelter would be acquired by Roosevelt Middle School and all labor for the construction would be provided by University students and community volunteers. This transportation focused project has promoted university student members of designBridge to familiarize themselves with use, planning and design related issues of bicycle transportation. This experience has been effective and highly educational, not only in this specific project, but the knowledge they have gained will be carried with them as they graduate and begin their professional work. This alternate transportation project has had a noticeable effect on the students and community of Roosevelt Middle School, as well as the university students and taking opportunities to engage in transportation related service-learning projects will undoubtedly have a lasting effect on the community.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
December 31,2009
UTC Grant Cycle:
OTREC 2009
UTC Funding: