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Engineering For Non Engineering Schools: A Hands On Educational Curriculum That Addresses The Need For Renewable Energy Through Undergraduate Research And Applied Science

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Research in Multidisciplinary Education

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.509.1 - 13.509.14



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Paper Authors

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Chris Bachmann James Madison University

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Jeffrey Tang James Madison University

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Carl Puffenbarger James Madison University

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mike kauffman James Madison University

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

Engineering for non-engineering schools: how we used hands-on experience with alternative fuels to educate students and promote science and engineering

Abstract: The Department of _____ was established at ____ University in 1991 as a model for a new type of science and technology program that provides a broad scientific and technical education, engages students with real-world problems, and seriously addresses societal influences and impacts. The department cuts across typical disciplinary boundaries, focusing more on practical problem solving than on theoretical knowledge. The curriculum emphasizes learning-by-doing, and includes several hands-on laboratory courses and a 3-semester senior capstone project. Upper-level instruction in the department is organized around strategic industry sectors, with students choosing to concentrate their studies in biosystems, engineering and manufacturing, information and knowledge management, telecommunications, energy, or environment.

In 1997, the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Lab (AFV) was founded as part of the department’s energy sector. The lack of an engineering program initially posed obstacles to alternative fuel activities, since the department lacked the necessary equipment and space. Instead, the AFV was formed from a collaborative partnership with the university’s Facilities Management, which already possessed the requisite tools, workspace, and knowledge to initiate an alternative fuels program. AFV provides students with a hands-on educational experience working with alternative fuels and designing and constructing a variety of alternative fuel vehicles. In 2003, Facilities Management switched all of its vehicles with diesel engines entirely to biodiesel blends, allowing students to see how biofuels can be used successfully on a larger scale. Even though the university did not have an engineering program, in 2006 we were awarded a charter to form a student chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The department is currently pursuing ABET Accreditation in the Applied Science category.

Aside from its educational value to our students, the AFV’s alternative fuels program solidifies their interest in science, technology, and engineering, and cultivates their self-confidence and pride in their tangible achievements. Student-built biofuel vehicles have been displayed at numerous car shows, parades, fairs, and exhibitions, highlighting the hands-on educational component of the ISAT degree and fostering interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Indeed, the AFV’s public outreach has become a crucial part of its mission. The department-university partnership has expanded to include the surrounding city, which now uses biodiesel blends for all of its public transportation (including K-12 school buses), and the AFV has either visited or hosted on-site more than fifty K-12 schools. Thus, the AFV contributes to the community by educating the public about alternative fuels and by portraying science and engineering in an appealing and accessible form to children and laypersons.

This paper describes how ___U has developed an educational program emphasizing applied science and engineering despite the absence of a formal engineering program and how, through a strategic partnership with the university’s Facilities Management, developed a highly instructive and useful Alternative Fuel Vehicle Lab. Using existing university resources and a broad base of cross-disciplinary knowledge, we have been able to provide students with diverse, hands-on

Bachmann, C., & Tang, J., & Puffenbarger, C., & kauffman, M. (2008, June), Engineering For Non Engineering Schools: A Hands On Educational Curriculum That Addresses The Need For Renewable Energy Through Undergraduate Research And Applied Science Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4109

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