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Infusing The Materials Engineering Curriculum With Sustainability Principles

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Curriculum for Green Materials

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

11.763.1 - 11.763.8



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Paper Authors


Katherine Chen California Polytechnic State University

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KATHERINE C. CHEN is an Associate Professor in the Materials Engineering Department at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, CA. She received her bachelor degrees (in Chemistry and Materials Science & Engineering) from Michigan State University, and Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At Cal Poly, she teaches numerous materials engineering courses and labs.

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Linda Vanasupa California Polytechnic State University

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Linda Vanasupa is a professor in the Materials Engineering Department at
the California Polytechnic State University. She is also been serving
as department chair and associate director of Cal Poly's Center for
Sustainability in Engineering. Her degrees are from Michigan
Technological University (B.S. metallurgical engineeering, 1985) and
Stanford University (Ph.D. materials science and engineering, 1991).

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Blair London California Polytechnic State University

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BLAIR LONDON is a Professor in the Materials Engineering Department at Cal
Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, CA. He earned a BS in Materials
Engineering from Drexel University and MS & PhD degrees in Materials Science
and Engineering from Stanford University. He currently teaches a variety of
undergraduate engineering courses at Cal Poly and has recently become
interested in the areas of sustainability, industrial design, and the
intersection of engineering and the performing arts.

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Richard Savage California Polytechnic State University

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RICHARD N. SAVAGE is an Associate Professor in the Materials Engineering
Department at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, CA. He joined Cal
Poly in 2002 after 20+ years in industry. He received a bachelor in science
degree from Juniata College, Huntingdon, Pa. and a Ph.D. in
Analytical/Physical Chemistry from Indiana University, Bloomington, In. He
is the graduate coordinator for the MATE department and director of the
Micro Systems Technology Group.

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

Infusing the Materials Engineering Curriculum with Sustainability Principles


In order to better prepare our students for the complex, global world outside the confines of the university, we have been making concerted efforts to incorporate sustainability principles (i.e., balance of economics, society, and environment) within the materials engineering curriculum at California Polytechnic (Cal Poly) State University. Many future engineering tasks will require the understanding of complicated interplays of technology with the environment and society. In addition, energy demands and dwindling natural resources have emerged as significant challenges for scientists and engineers. The materials engineer has great opportunity to help devise sustainable solutions through appropriate materials selection and processing, and our faculty has been trying to convey such ideas and skills to our students.

Many different sustainability activities and assignments have been woven into several of our materials engineering courses. Some activities are to promote awareness and to give motivation for our students to use their engineering skills for the betterment of society and the planet. Pertinent articles from popular media sources have been used as the basis for reflection exercises and to stimulate student discussions. A freshmen design course has been developed to highlight sustainability through service learning. In addition, we have used software tools (CES Eco- selector) to quantitatively assess the environmental impact due to particular materials selection and processing techniques. Several different pedagogical techniques have been employed for these different activities.

BACKGROUND: revising our curriculum

The engineer for the year 20201 has been proposed to be somewhat different from the current engineering student. ABET also requires programs to train students to solve problems and to design within realistic design constraints that include sustainability2. The Brundtland Commission has defined sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”3 Accordingly, our materials engineering curriculum at Cal Poly is currently being revised to nurture more global, effective materials engineers for the future. Our department website4 highlights our commitment to sustainability (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Cal Poly Materials Engineering department website4 displays the sustainability theme in the curriculum.

Chen, K., & Vanasupa, L., & London, B., & Savage, R. (2006, June), Infusing The Materials Engineering Curriculum With Sustainability Principles Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--214

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