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Exploring the Human Dimension of Engineering Through the Built Environment

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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

Embedding Sociotechnical Systems Thinking II

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Jeffrey C. Evans P.E. Bucknell University

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Jeffrey C. Evans, Ph.D., P.E., F. ASCE is Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA.

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Humanities and social sciences along with mathematics and natural sciences are at the core of liberal learning. Consistent with recognition of the importance of humanities and social science in engineering education, the proposed ABET student outcome 5. requires students to have "An ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts."

As one way to stress the importance of the human dimension of engineering, new course has been developed for both engineering and non-engineering students studying abroad entitled “London’s Built Environment” and the course was designed primarily to foster student’s understanding of the relationship between the built environment that surrounds them, the natural environment in which it is built and the human and social environment for which it was designed. Since the first offering of the course was in London, the course is entitled “London’s Built Environment.” This course explores the relationships between Londoners and their built environment. The course included classroom lectures, guest lecturers and field trips. Lecture topics included the London geology and natural subsurface conditions and their role in shaping the historic and modern city; the role of clean water, waste management from ancient through modern times including the historic development of modern indoor plumbing and the unintended consequences thereof; the role of transportation infrastructure in urban development; and sustainable urban development. Field trips included walking tours of London with specific themes, such as London under London, thematic museums such as the Museum of London and the London Transport Museum, and trips to some of London’s best examples of the built environment including the Thames Flood gates, the pedestrian tunnel under the Thames at Greenwich and the Tower Bridge. Many aspects of the London built environment were explored in a chronological manner beginning with Neolithic settlements capitalizing on the natural environment and progressing through various ages of London with particular emphasis on Roman, Medieval, Elizabethan, Georgian, Victorian, and modern time periods.

Throughout the course, a recurring theme was for the students to consider how and why London’s built environment is as it is and to compare and contrast that with their own experiences in the US and elsewhere. The course was designed as an active learning course with discussion, field trips and student presentations. In addition to ABET student outcome 5 above, two other goals of the course were: • prepare students for meaningful involvement with a rapidly changing world characterized by diverse individual perspectives, globalization and multi-cultural interactions, and scientific/technological innovation; and • provide students with opportunities to build and enhance your abilities to understand the social and natural worlds around you; to analyze, evaluate, and integrate the information available to you; and to synthesize and communicate thought effectively.

While the paper describes the course as it was delivered in London, it is believed that this course can be easily adapted to any environment in which the course is delivered, whether that be in the US or abroad.

Evans, J. C. (2018, June), Exploring the Human Dimension of Engineering Through the Built Environment Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30498

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