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Developing An Energy Literacy Curriculum For Incoming Freshmen At Baylor University: Lessons Learned

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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

Curricular Developments in Energy Education

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.379.1 - 15.379.14



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Paper Authors


Kenneth Van Treuren Baylor University

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Dr. Van Treuren is a professor on the faculty in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Baylor University. He teaches the capstone Mechanical Engineering Laboratory course as well as courses in heat transfer, aerospace engineering, gas turbines, fluid mechanics, and wind power. His research interests include energy education and gas turbine heat transfer. He can be contacted at

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Ian Gravagne Baylor University

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Dr. Gravagne is an assistant professor with the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at Baylor University. He teaches the Engineering Design II (“senior design”) course, as well as technical electives in solar energy, robotics and engineering mathematics. His principal research interests are the engineering applications of dynamic equations on time scales and energy education. He can be contacted at

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



Understanding energy, where it comes from, and how it is used, has become increasingly important and will continue to be so in the future. As part of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation effort at Baylor University, the authors proposed a unique energy literacy class for incoming freshmen as an element of Baylor University’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). The QEP called for the development of several Engaged Learning Groups (ELG) for freshmen (from any major on campus) which met one semester hour for four semesters. The purpose of this particular ELG was to address the lack of energy awareness on the part of students involved in all majors. Entitled “Energy and Society,” the course was also part of the residential learning communities on campus. It revolved around the topic of energy and its associated societal, political, environmental and economic dimensions. Students who attended the entire course, four semesters, were able to substitute this course for one in their major. The first semester was an introduction to energy concepts such as work, power and conservation of energy. The second semester dealt with energy production (conventional and alternative/renewable) and usage in society. The third semester looked in more detail at issues raised by the students themselves and led them through a process to develop a research proposal in an energy related area. The last semester was dedicated to the research project proposed by the students. Much was learned from the first offering of this course. The paper examines the structure of the course, its assessment, lessons learned, and changes proposed for the second offering of this course sequence.

Importance of Energy Education

It is evident that energy and its use have become increasingly important to the United States and the world. Shortages in traditional hydrocarbon fuels are being forecast and there is more talk about renewable energy sources. While energy is very important, as a presidential debate topic not much was said about energy in the last election. In fact, only 10 minutes of the final 90 minute presidential debate on October 15, 2008 was devoted to outlining energy policy1. From listening to the debates, it was evident that both candidates have studied the energy challenges facing the nation, however, each candidate needed to think through the impact and cost of their policies. President Obama has described several key issues in energy and the environment that he has pledged to work towards in his administration. Called the “New Energy for America” plan, it consists of the following2.

1) Help create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future. 2) Within 10 years save more oil than we currently import from the Middle East and Venezuela combined. 3) Put 1 million Plug-In Hybrid cars -- cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon -- on the road by 2015, cars that we will work to make sure are built here in America.

Van Treuren, K., & Gravagne, I. (2010, June), Developing An Energy Literacy Curriculum For Incoming Freshmen At Baylor University: Lessons Learned Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16168

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