Asee peer logo

A New Program in Sustainable Engineering: A Platform for Integrating Research and Service into the Classroom through Global Engagement

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Sustainability and Hands-on Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.75.1 - 26.75.8



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Rachel A Brennan P.E. Pennsylvania State University, University Park Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Rachel Brennan, Ph.D., P.E., is an Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering at Penn State University, a Senior Consultant with Golder Associates, and a Faculty Advisor to Engineers Without Borders. She has over 16 years of practical experience in environmental remediation, with expertise in the development and application of enhanced bioremediation technologies for treating contaminated soil, groundwater, surface water, and wastewater. She has developed innovative strategies for treating a variety of hazardous compounds, including chlorinated solvents, hydrocarbons, explosives, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and acid mine drainage (AMD). Her current research efforts focus on ecological wastewater treatment, enhanced nutrient removal, and beneficial reuse of aquatic biomass for sustainable fertilizer and biofuel production.

visit author page

Download Paper |


A New Program in Sustainable Engineering: A Platform for Integrating Research and Service into the Classroom through Global Engagement.Currently 2.5 billion people, over one third of the Earth’s population, are affected by waterscarcity and are without sanitation. The majority of humanity is concentrated in coastalcommunities: approximately half of the world’s population lives within 200 kilometers of acoast. In many developing countries, raw wastewater is discharged into coastal waters withoutbeing treated, in the belief that these discharges do not significantly affect the environment. Inreality, these contaminants not only threaten human health, but also often contribute to the lossof marine animals which local peoples often rely on for food and income. In the future,continuing population growth and economic development will increase the demand for water andthe severity of pollution. There is a clear and overwhelming need for sanitation and waterpurification in developing coastal communities, but it is not afforded by conventional, energy-intensive and chemically-intensive water treatment or fossil-fuel-based energy systems. In high-poverty equatorial coasts, the stable temperatures, steady winds, and predictable solar inputgreatly facilitate sustainable practices for water treatment and energy production.We have recently begun to develop a new cross-disciplinary program in Sustainable Engineeringat Penn State that empowers coastal communities in the Caribbean to improve their quality oflife and protect their natural resources. In this program, senior-level engineering courses trainundergraduate and graduate students to design and deploy ecologically-designed wastewatertreatment plants with renewable energy systems in collaboration with faculty-led research teamsand community participants. These courses are strategically designed to be training andrecruitment tools to help prepare the local student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB)for the project, and to provide students at all levels with challenging, immersive, hand-onexperiences that augment their research and education in sustainability.This work is significant because it is one of the first international, multi-disciplinary programs inSustainable Engineering in North America, and utilizes a student outreach organization (EWB)to mobilize the resulting efforts to engage developing coastal communities with the assistance ofpracticing engineers. The longevity of this program is supported through cross-disciplinaryresearch, course development, and mentoring of EWB projects containing interdisciplinary,multi-component systems. Future partnerships in the areas of wind energy, coral reef resilience,food systems science, economic development, and eco-tourism are planned to further enhancethe program.

Brennan, R. A. (2015, June), A New Program in Sustainable Engineering: A Platform for Integrating Research and Service into the Classroom through Global Engagement Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23416

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015