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Development and Application of a Sustainable Design Rubric to Evaluate Student Abilities to Incorporate Sustainability into Capstone Design Projects

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Teaching and Assessing Sustainability and Life Long Learning

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.408.1 - 23.408.33



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Paper Authors


Mary Katherine Watson Georgia Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Mary Katherine Watson is a Ph.D. candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at Georgia Tech (GT). Through support from a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, she has been working to improve the quality of sustainability education in CEE at GT through development and application of a variety of assessment tools and educational interventions. In addition to research in the field of engineering education, Mary Katherine is the founding president of the GT chapter of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Also at GT, Mary Katherine completed an M.S. in Environmental Engineering with research focused on biological treatment of organic surfactants. Prior to enrolling at GT, she received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biosystems Engineering from Clemson University.

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Elise M. Barrella James Madison University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Elise M. Barrella is an assistant professor of Engineering at James Madison University, focusing on transportation systems and sustainability. Prior to joining the JMU Engineering faculty in 2012, Dr. Barrella was at Georgia Tech completing her Ph.D. research as part of the Infrastructure Research Group (IRG). She also completed a teaching certificate and was actively involved with the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) at Georgia Tech. Her academic interests focus on two primary areas of sustainable transportation: (1) community-based design and planning and (2) strategic planning and policy development. Dr. Barrella is also interested in investigating how to best integrate these research interests into classroom and project experiences for her students.

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Thomas A. Wall Georgia Institute of Technology

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Caroline R. Noyes Georgia Institute of Technology


Michael O. Rodgers Georgia Institute of Technology

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Dr. Michael Rodgers is a research professor in the Georgia Tech School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and a principal research scientist and distinguished technical fellow with the Georgia Tech Research Institute. Over the last thirty plus years, Dr. Rodgers has held various academic, research and administrative positions including serving as director of the Georgia Tech Air Quality laboratory from 1988 to 2008. He currently serves as deputy director for Research and Technology Transfer for National Center for Transportation Productivity and Management at Georgia Tech.

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Development of a Sustainable Design Rubric to Assess Student Abilities to Apply Sustainability Principles in Engineering DesignAlthough technological innovation may have contributed to current unsustainable practices,science and engineering are important fields for developing and implementing sustainabledevelopment strategies. To properly initiate educational reforms needed to train sustainably-conscious engineers, methods are needed to assess application of sustainability knowledge.While metric systems are available for quantifying sustainability of large-scale engineeringprojects, there are no similar methods for judging the sustainability of student projects.The goal of this work is to develop and apply a rubric to quantify student abilities to incorporatesustainability during the design process. The Nine Principles of Sustainable Design wereselected as the rubric basis because they are expert-derived and general enough to be applicableto many engineering projects. From these principles, 16 sustainable design criteria wereextracted. The rubric includes an earned points scale, which quantifies the extent to which aproject addresses each criterion, and a potential points scale, which is used to quantify theapplicability of each criterion to a given project. To ensure rubric validity, it was reviewed by anexpert panel of eight faculty and graduate students. Three expert judges are currently using therubric to score GT CEE capstone projects from Fall 2011. Results will be used to characterizethe ability of GT graduates to engage in sustainable design, and ultimately identify strategies forimproving the undergraduate curriculum. Furthermore, analysis of GT capstone projects willserve as a demonstration of how the sustainable design rubric can be applied in other engineeringdisciplines and academic institutions to guide curriculum and course reform.

Watson, M. K., & Barrella, E. M., & Wall, T. A., & Noyes, C. R., & Rodgers, M. O. (2013, June), Development and Application of a Sustainable Design Rubric to Evaluate Student Abilities to Incorporate Sustainability into Capstone Design Projects Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19422

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