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Introducing Sustainability into Engineering Design: A First-Year Course

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

DEED Melange

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.811.1 - 24.811.15



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Paper Authors


Courtney Pfluger Northeastern University

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Dr. Courtney Pfluger received her Bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University in 2004. She then went to work in the Biotechnology Industry, where she worked on process development of recombinant proteins from mammalian cell cultures. In 2006, Dr. Pfluger enrolled into the Chemical Engineering PhD program at Northeastern University. In the spring of 2011, she successfully defended her PhD dissertation entitled “Biomimetic Replication of Intestinal Basement Membrane Topography”. In the fall 2011 semester, she started a new position as Assistant Academic Specialist in the College of Engineering as a Gateway Faculty with a focus on chemical engineering. As part of her appointment she teaches freshman engineering courses, Engineering Design and Computations and Problem Solving, as well as undergraduate chemical engineering Process Controls. She has also been appointed at the faculty advisor for the undergraduate student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

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Kathryn Schulte Grahame Northeastern University

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Dr. Kathryn Schulte Grahame is an Assistant Academic Specialist at Northeastern University. She is a member of the Gateway Faculty Team who's focus is to provide a consistent, comprehensive, and constructive educational experience in engineering that endorses the students centered and professionally oriented mission of the University. As a member of the Gateway Teams she dedicated to the development and instruction of first-year engineering courses as well specialty courses for undergraduates in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Northeastern University.

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Introducing Sustainability into Engineering Design: a First Year CourseEngineering Design is a first year student course that introduces systematic engineering designmethods. Using the engineering design cycle, students are walked through each phase of thecycle using real world examples. Two faculty members introduced a sustainability theme intothe existing project-based course to around 200 students (approximately one third of theincoming freshman). With the university’s mission to become a more sustainably aware campus,this piloted theme synchronized well with long term goals. Thematic sustainability lessons thatfocused on water, materials, and alternative energy technologies were introduced throughout thecourse alongside traditional methods used to teach the engineering design cycle and culminatedwith a themed group final project to design a sustainable home in an assigned global location.The thematic inclusion of sustainability resulted not only in gained knowledge on sustainabledesigns and practices but also stronger projects that were more realistic to actual engineeringdesign projects (compared to past years). The improved quality of design projects was a resultof an increased understanding of needs assessment which can be directly tied to the additionallessons. Pre and post assessments were taken by 180 first year engineering students plus 30 highschool students, who received scholarships to take the first year college course. The thematiclessons created a more focused classroom experience with broader results of students feelingmore confident in their research skills. Overall, the improvement in design projects stemmingfrom the thematic foundation showed an increase in student confidence in their design abilitiesaccording to early evaluations. In collaboration with other faculty the thematic approach will beexpanded in this course next year to include other topics that align with the university’s mission.

Pfluger, C., & Schulte Grahame, K. (2014, June), Introducing Sustainability into Engineering Design: A First-Year Course Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20703

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