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Designing an Engineering Solution with the 4 P’s: People, Prosperity, Planet, Politics

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Enviromental Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.478.1 - 26.478.11



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Paper Authors


Stephanie Butler Velegol Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Stephanie Butler Velegol has been teaching Environmental Engineering courses in the Civil Engineering Department at Penn State for 7 years. She has pioneered the use of flipped classes to increase active leaning in the classroom. In addition, she has worked with dozens of undergraduate students on a sustainable process using the seeds of the Moringa tree to produce clean water in developing communities around the world.

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Designing an engineering solution with the 4 P’s: People, Prosperity, Planet, PoliticsIn this paper I describe a simple method for introducing sustainability and assessing ABETcriteria c, h, and j, in a 3rd year environmental engineering class. During this activity studentspose design questions incorporate 4 P’s: People, Prosperity, Planet, and Politics. Studentsexamine their design questions within economic, environmental, social and political constraintsand understand the impact of their solutions within these contexts. (ABET criteria c and h). Inaddition this activity introduces contemporary issues (ABET criterion j).During the first week of an Introduction to Environmental Engineering class, students are askedto imagine themselves in one of three real-life engineering scenarios: 1. As an engineeringvolunteer asked to provide a treatment process for “turbid water that is making people sick” inthe developing world. 2. As an engineer designing a statement before a board to defend a switchfrom coal to natural gas as a fuel source. 3. As an engineer asked to design a process to removecontaminants from groundwater in Toms River, NJ. First students are asked individually to writedown all the questions they would need to ask before they design their process (and to whomthey would ask them). Then they are asked to share their responses with their peers in a groupsetting and write down their responses.The instructor then shows the students a framework using an additional scenario (odorsemanating from a sewer). The instructor explains how the solution would involve not only atechnical solution but also a consideration of the 4 Ps. The students are then asked to re-writetheir questions with the 4 Ps in mind. After the activity the students were asked to write downwhat they learned and what surprised them about this activity. These three scenarios are thenrevisited by the students at the end of the semester after they have learned the technicalsolutions.In this presentation I will discuss the students’ responses before and after the framework wasdiscussed and at the end of the semester. Without being prompted, most of the students did notask questions about people (who would it affect), prosperity (how much would it cost), planet(what are the environmental impacts of the design) and politics (who would pay for it, who isresponsible). After the framework was shown all the student groups were able to apply the 4 Psto their scenario. The ability of the students to recall the 4 Ps as part of their technical solutionsat the end of the semester will also be discussed. Most of the students commented that theylearned that the technical solution is not sufficient to consider in an engineering solution. Inaddition, they mentioned the importance of asking good questions and working together as ateam. They also mentioned being surprised about some of current issues and challenges facingEnvironmental Engineers. This presentation will conclude with a discussion about how studentslearn to design technical solutions and also recognize the importance of constraints such aspolitical, economic, environmental and social.

Velegol, S. B. (2015, June), Designing an Engineering Solution with the 4 P’s: People, Prosperity, Planet, Politics Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23816

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