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Alternative Energy, An Introduction For Engineers

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Experiences in Teaching Energy Courses

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.133.1 - 15.133.10



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Paper Authors


James Riddell Baker College Of Flint

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James A. Riddell is Dean of Engineering and Technology at Baker College of Flint. He is a member of ASEE, ASME, SME (past chair) and SAE (past chair.)

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Anca Sala Baker College Of Flint

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Anca L. Sala, Associate Professor, is Chair of the Engineering Department at Baker College. Dr. Sala coordinates several engineering and technology programs, teaches and develops engineering curriculum, and leads the ABET accreditation activities in the department. She is an active member of ASEE, ASME, and OSA.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Alternative Energy, an Introduction for Engineers

Abstract The purpose of this course is to give undergraduate engineering students opportunity to explore multiple types of alternative energy sources and reflect on the implications of the implementation of a particular energy source. Lifecycle planning, engineering and management of particular forms of alternative energy sources such as wind turbines, photovoltaic, geothermal along with many lesser known sources were researched by the students. The format of the course was structured such that each student had a unique topic area to research and present to the class the basics of a given energy source along with current trends, challenges and opportunities. The key “big idea” was to empower the students to critically review non-traditional energy sources (i.e. non-fossil fuels) and develop a level of comfort in addressing not only the hard technical implications related to alternative energy but to also encompass the “soft” side of society’s opinions, global impact, legal aspects (codes, zoning and laws), environmental concerns and construction difficulties. The second “big idea” was that as each student became more knowledgeable in the area they were researching they would present related technical, societal and legal issues for discussion with the class promoting a dialog and better understanding of such for all. Aside from the more mainstream alternative energy sources, students investigated wave and tidal systems, Lunar Helium-3, and magnetic power sources. While some sources are currently lacking in practical application, the students were encouraged to “think outside the box” while keeping up critical thinking to identify areas for opportunity and challenges to be overcome. The intent of the course was to use aspects of the “Understanding by Design” philosophy in the course development and to support the ABET Engineering Program Outcomes by giving students an opportunity for active learning while emphasizing the importance of self learning and continuing education. Focus was also placed on ensuring that each student gained additional experience in communication and participation in discussion with relevant inquiry. 1. Introduction Alternative energy (AE) has continued to be a hot-button topic for a number of years. Many colleges and universities have consequently introduced courses on this topic, having a variety of formats: with1,2 or without3 experimental laboratories, project based4, or based on a multidisciplinary approach5. One issue when covering such a broad field is that many students never get a complete picture on all that is involved or related to a given technology. To that end, with the support of our institution’s curriculum committee, it was decided to develop and offer an overview or introductory class for Mechanical Engineering students. The course must be in support of the Program Outcomes adopted by our program (included in the Appendix) based on the ABET criteria for the Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering6 (BSME) and since our institution, under the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), is utilizing Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) as part of its institutional accreditation, Understanding by Design (UbD) techniques were incorporated in the course development.

Riddell, J., & Sala, A. (2010, June), Alternative Energy, An Introduction For Engineers Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16658

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