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Environmental Energy Course Adopted into a University’s Core Curriculum

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

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Paper Authors


Alexa N. Rihana Abdallah University of Detroit Mercy

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Alexa Rihana Abdallah is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Detroit Mercy,

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Mark Schumack University of Detroit Mercy

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Mark Schumack is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Detroit Mercy, where he teaches courses in heat transfer, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and energy systems. His ongoing pedagogical interests include developing ways to teach energy conservation and sustainability principles. His research interests include thermal/fluid modeling using computational techniques, with applications in the automotive, manufacturing, and energy fields. Dr. Schumack earned his BS, MS, and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan.

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Most people are aware of the global energy challenges of pollution, greenhouse gas production, dwindling nonrenewable resources, and the environmental consequences of resource exploitation. Although recognition of these problems is widespread, many studies have shown that America’s “energy literacy” rate is low. As engineering faculty, the authors believe that a technically literate public is crucial to the development of rational energy policies. This article describes the development and execution of an introductory energy course offered to nontechnical students with majors in science, business, architecture, and humanities. The course is the first offering from engineering faculty to be adopted into the university’s core curriculum, satisfying the objective for scientific literacy in natural sciences.

Challenges in the development of this course included attaining the right balance between qualitative and quantitative material and tempering faculty’s enthusiasm for rigorous mathematical analysis in deference to a nontechnical audience that largely reflects the region’s diversity. The overriding goals were to inform students about energy production and consumption patterns, various technologies and their environmental consequences, and the pros and cons of renewable and nonrenewable energy systems. Other objectives were to provide a straightforward yet sophisticated appreciation of the negative effects of unconsidered energy consumption, a knowledge of the physical laws governing and technologies behind conventional and alternative energy production, and an array of tools to evaluate and implement energy conservation strategies on personal and corporate levels.

To achieve these objectives, several projects were implemented that include calculation of heat usage and heat loss during a winter month for a campus building, performing energy audits for residences in a neighbouring community and calculating estimated energy savings. In addition, the course required a term paper on atmospheric pollution and its sources and effects. These activities helped students more deeply appreciate the impact of energy-related choices, behavioral actions, and human activities, as well as the price of technological advances and modern lifestyles on the environment.

The instructors wanted to gauge the effectiveness of the class on the students’ energy literacy. Questions from the NEETF report were chosen, allowing for a comparison between student and national responses. Survey questions were divided into those addressing knowledge, attitude, and behavior. Results from pre- and post-course energy questionnaires indicate that the course was effective in improving student energy knowledge by 40% and awareness of important energy issues.

Rihana Abdallah, A. N., & Schumack, M. (2018, June), Environmental Energy Course Adopted into a University’s Core Curriculum Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30435

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