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Incorporating Contemporary Policy Issues in Science and Engineering Curricula

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Engineering and Public Policy Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering and Public Policy

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Paper Authors


Amro El Badawy California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

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Dr. Amro El Badawy is an Environmental Engineering Assistant Professor at California Polytechnic State University

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Marie Yeung California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo


James L. Hanson California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

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James L. Hanson is a professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department of California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo. Jim previously served as Chair of the Civil Engineering Division of ASEE.

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Nazli Yesiller California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

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Dr. Yesiller is the Director of the Global Waste Research Institute (GWRI) at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

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A curriculum development project was implemented to provide classroom-to-classroom interactions between a civil engineering computer programming class and a microbiology class to incorporate a contemporary policy issue into science and engineering curriculum at the undergraduate level. Both courses are lower division courses to impact science and engineering students entering their programs of study. The specific collaborative activity relates to a current California policy issue to divert organic wastes from landfills. The policy will affect the environment (in relation to reduced landfill emissions of hazardous and high global warming potential gases) and waste management industry (in relation to conversion of landfill gas to energy, which is a revenue source for landfills). The instructors of both classes provided context for the policy issue prior to interactions. The implications of the policy were examined by the civil engineering students from the perspective of performing regression analysis to predict current and future gas generation from landfills (with changing regulations). The microbiology students analyzed the implication of the new policy from the perspective of identifying populations of microbes present in wastes with varying amounts of organics contents to mimic current and future wastes. Results of each analysis were shared between classes by the students. Teaching and learning effectiveness were evaluated using direct assessment (homework assignments and laboratory reports) and indirect assessment (student self-perception survey and oral presentations) methods by which Bloom’s Taxonomy of educational objectives were used to evaluate levels of cognitive achievement reached through project activities. The assessment results demonstrate that the students advanced their knowledge in the topics included in the course and recognized the collaborative nature of solving real-world problems. The students expressed their increased motivation to learn the class topics that were specifically framed as problems in a cross-disciplinary context. Overall, the approach utilized proved effective in introducing the students to the importance and relationship of science and engineering analyses when interfaced with contemporary government policy.

El Badawy, A., & Yeung, M., & Hanson, J. L., & Yesiller, N. (2021, July), Incorporating Contemporary Policy Issues in Science and Engineering Curricula Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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