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Evaluation of Student Perceptions of Sustainability in Design: A Pilot Study

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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

Understanding Student Development in Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors

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Andrew Joseph Bechtel The College of New Jersey


Karen Chang Yan The College of New Jersey

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Karen C. Yan is a Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the College of New Jersey. Her teaching and research interests include biomaterials with tissue engineering applications, composite materials, and materials science.

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It has been the consensus in engineering community that sustainability and sustainable design need to be a part of engineering education for last two decades. Multiple approaches have been investigated in terms of effectively integrating relevant contents and improving students’ understanding. Examples include: offering technical electives on topics in renewable energy and environmental impacts among others, establishing new concentrations focusing on sustainability issues, and integrating sustainable design throughout the curricula. However, effectively learning of sustainability and sustainable design requires understanding multiple issues from a technical, social, environmental, and economical perspective. Moreover, existing studies show that the students’ background knowledge on sustainability varies widely depending on their experience and major concentration. It remains challenging to integrate the contents of sustainability and sustainable design into currently packed engineering curricula. Due to upcoming changes in The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) criterion, sustainability will effectively become a measurable outcome for engineering programs seeking ABET accreditation.

This paper outlines a pilot study performed at _________________ to establish baseline data of students’ perception of sustainable design at the freshman and senior levels. The study also examines effects of in-class learning activities on students’ perception. Pre and post surveys were used for collecting data. The pre-exercise surveys were answered by students at both freshmen and senior levels majoring in Mechanical and Civil engineering. The results of this survey were used to establish the effects the current curriculum has on the student’s conception of sustainability. They showed that there was rather small change in the student’s perception comparing the freshman group and the senior group. Subsequently, in-class activities were performed with the freshman mechanical engineers and the senior civil engineers. A post survey was then administered to evaluate changes in perception. The results from the post survey showed that a single in-class activity can only generate some changes related to the discussed topic and little change in perception as whole. Systematic approaches for integrating the contents of sustainability and sustainable design are necessary to address the revised ABET criterion.

Bechtel, A. J., & Yan, K. C. (2018, June), Evaluation of Student Perceptions of Sustainability in Design: A Pilot Study Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30455

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