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Evolution Of A Sustainability Focused First Year Environmental Engineering Course

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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

Sustainability in Engineering Curricula

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.544.1 - 15.544.12



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Paper Authors


Angela Bielefeldt University of Colorado, Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt, PhD, PE, is currently the Director of the Environmental Engineering Program at the University of Colorado - Boulder. The program offers an accredited B.S. degree in Environmental Engineering using courses primarily from civil, chemical, and mechanical engineering. Angela is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, & Architectural Engineering.

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

Evolution of a Sustainability Focused First-Year Environmental Engineering Course Abstract

This paper presents ideas on methods to introduce sustainability to first year engineering students. The first year environmental engineering course that all majors are required to take at the University of Colorado at Boulder was modified in fall 2009 to emphasize sustainability. An understanding of sustainability is an important foundation for all engineering students. In addition, it was hypothesized that emphasizing sustainability and the global impacts of environmental engineering would be interesting and motivational to students. At the start of the second lecture in the course, students were given a 12-question in-class survey on sustainability. Students also responded to in-class questions during the two sustainability lectures in real time using a Course Response System (clickers). The new assignment specifically on sustainability required the students to read the Royal Academy of Engineering’s “Engineering for Sustainable Development” report and part of the “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States” document. The second new assignment required the students to assess and compare different biofuel options based on journal articles that had conducted life cycle assessments (LCA). This assignment proved particularly challenging for the students. The reflective essays that students wrote in the final assignment of the semester indicated that the new course content successfully raised their awareness of sustainability. However, modifications to the assignments are planned.


There is general consensus that all engineers should be aware of sustainability and use it as a criteria during design.1,2 There is also strong consensus that environmental engineers, in particular, should promote sustainable engineering.3 The expected environmental engineering (EVEN) student learning outcomes in regards to sustainability have been articulated in the Body of Knowledge (BOK). The EVEN BOK defines levels of knowledge in terms of the rigor and relevance framework. 3

Public interest in sustainability appears to be growing, which may be a driver for the recent increases in student enrollment in environmental engineering (EVEN) nationwide4 and at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU). For example, the enrollment figures from CU are shown in Figure 1. The largest boost in recent enrollment at CU has been from first year students.

Bielefeldt, A. (2010, June), Evolution Of A Sustainability Focused First Year Environmental Engineering Course Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15861

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