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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: FIBER EXTRUSION TO IMPROVE USE AND PRODUCTION OF ETHANOL BYPRODUCTS

Location: North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory

Title: Greening the curriculum: augmenting engineering and technology courses with sustainability topics

Authors
item Rosentrater, Kurt
item Kongar, Elif -

Submitted to: Journal of Engineering and Applied Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 1, 2010
Publication Date: December 28, 2010
Citation: Rosentrater, K.A., Kongar, E. 2010. Greening the curriculum: augmenting engineering and technology courses with sustainability topics. Journal of Engineering and Applied Science. 5(6):370-381.

Interpretive Summary: Engineers and technologists design and implement solutions to problems. So it is their responsibility to understand their accountability to society, not just their employers, when they do their jobs. They must also understand their potential for impacting the environment. The growing fields of green engineering and sustainable engineering are trying to help meet the competing priorities of engineering and technology. The concepts, ideas, and tools of green engineering are essential for graduates to know and understand. Unfortunately, many degree programs do not yet offer green engineering to their students. Modifying curricula can be challenging, especially as pressure mounts to teach the students more information, but not extend their time at the university. Thus the goal of this paper is to discuss three key topics that can be readily infused into existing coursework: raw materials, process efficiencies, and wastes/byproducts. The authors have found that these three themes are essential to any engineering field or application, whether discussing design, manufacturing, management, or service operations. These three topics are multidisciplinary in nature, and have multiple dimensions. And these concepts apply to traditional engineering materials, as well as organic and biological systems; and they extend across the engineering spectrum, from product conception to end-of-life. In this paper we discuss each of these topics in turn, and how to infuse them into engineering and technology coursework. We provide several resources that educators and practitioners can use when pursuing such an endeavor. Augmenting undergraduate and graduate instruction is a strategy that can reap long term rewards, because trained graduates will enter the workforce equipped with a greater knowledge base and skill set. Additionally, bolstering curricula can raise awareness of these topics on many levels, ranging from the students themselves to the public at large.

Technical Abstract: Duties of engineers and technologists often entail designing and implementing solutions to problems. It is their responsibility to be cognizant of the impacts of their designs on, and thus their accountability to society in general. They must also be aware of subsequent effects upon the environment. They need to be able to concurrently satisfy these often competing priorities, as well as constraints specific to the technical challenges at hand. Responding to these contending forces are the growing fields of green engineering and sustainable engineering. Both of these areas encompass many concepts, ideas, and tools, all of which are essential for graduates to know and understand. Unfortunately, many degree programs do not offer this type of information to their students. It is true that modifying curricula can be challenging, especially as pressure mounts to teach the students more information, but not extend their time at the university. Toward that end, the goal of this paper is to discuss three key topics that can be readily infused into existing coursework with minimal disruption: raw materials, process efficiencies, and wastes/byproducts. The authors have determined that these three themes are essential to any engineering field or application, whether discussing design, manufacturing, management, and even service operations, to name but a few. These concepts apply to the application of traditional engineering materials, as well as organic and biological systems; and they extend fully across the engineering spectrum, from product conception to end-of-life. Indeed, these three topics are multidisciplinary in nature, and have multiple dimensions to consider. In this paper we will discuss each of these topics in turn, and how to infuse each of them into engineering and technology coursework (there are a variety of ways to successfully incorporate them into existing curricula). We will also provide several resources that educators can use when pursuing such an endeavor. Augmenting undergraduate and graduate instruction is a strategy that can reap profound rewards, not only because trained graduates will enter the workforce equipped with a greater knowledge base and skill set, but bolstering curricula can raise awareness of these topics on many levels, ranging from the students themselves to the public at large.

Last Modified: 7/27/2014
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