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Learning Benefits of Integrating Socioeconomic and Cultural Considerations into an Onsite Water Reclamation Course Project

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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

Environmental Engineering Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

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Paper Authors


Andrew Ross Pfluger Colorado School of Mines Orcid 16x16

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Lt Colonel Andrew Pfluger, U.S. Army, is an active duty officer and an Assistant Professor at the United States Military Academy. He served in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering from 2010 to 2013 and is a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry and Life Science as of June 2018. He earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering from USMA, a M.S. and Engineer Degree in Environmental Engineering and Science from Stanford University, and is on track to earn a PhD from the Colorado School of Mines in the spring of 2018. He is a licensed PE in the state of Delaware.

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Junko Munakata Marr Colorado School of Mines Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Munakata Marr is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. She received her BS degree in Chemical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology and her MS and PhD degrees in Civil Engineering from Stanford University. Her research and teaching interests revolve primarily around microorganisms in engineered environmental systems, including biological wastewater treatment and methanogenesis from unconventional sources. She has nearly 20 years of experience in bioremediation. Other interests include sustainable water infrastructure, increasing diversity among STEM students and faculty, and sustainable community development.

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Gary Vanzin


Robert L. Siegrist Colorado School of Mines

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Robert L. Siegrist, PhD, PE, BCEE is University Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science and Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines and also a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He is the former Director of the Environmental Science and Engineering Division at CSM and founding Director of the Small Flows Program. Before joining CSM in 1995, Prof. Siegrist held academic and research positions with the University of Wisconsin, Norwegian Institute for Georesources and Pollution Research, Ayres Associates Inc., and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He earned his BS (High Honors) and MS in Civil Engineering and his PhD in Environmental Engineering at the University of Wisconsin where he conducted research within the Small Scale Waste Management Project. Prof. Siegrist is an internationally recognized expert in decentralized water reclamation and in situ remediation of contaminated land. During his 40-year career he has published over 300 technical papers and 3 books and was awarded 2 patents. His new textbook, Decentralized Water Reclamation Engineering, was just published by Springer ( He has given invited keynote lectures at more than 100 workshops and conferences in more than 30 countries worldwide. He has also served as a science and engineering advisor to private and government agencies and organizations in the United States and abroad and has been a Fellow with the NATO Committee for Challenges to Modern Society.

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Centralized water and wastewater systems are commonly used in urban areas and population centers in the United States and many other developed countries. In both developed and developing countries, however, centralized systems are not always cost- effective or sustainable due to factors such as low-density development, rugged topography, limited water and energy supplies, lack of skilled labor, or cultural constraints. During the past decade, our university has offered a senior undergraduate/graduate-level course that focuses on onsite water reclamation covering the selection, design, and implementation of onsite and decentralized treatment systems. A major element used to assess student learning involves a culminating project that asks students to synthesize course knowledge by critically reviewing an onsite water or wastewater reclamation or reuse technology, identifying lessons learned from an onsite case study, or designing an onsite treatment system for a specific application. The course project is designed to be an open-ended assignment completed by groups consisting of one to five students. During course deliveries in 2014 and before, non-technical project considerations focused on regulatory requirements and project owner needs; students were not specifically encouraged to incorporate other non-technical issues encompassing socio-economic, political and cultural considerations into their projects. In 2016 and 2017, a different course instructor integrated socio-economic and cultural considerations, through course content focused on onsite water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) efforts in developing countries, as a major course theme based on student and faculty interest. Such non- technical considerations were also integrated into the report grading rubric in 2016 and 2017. To assess whether students valued the integration of non-technical considerations, 22 student projects spanning a period of four academic semesters between 2014 and 2017 were analyzed using two approaches: (1) projects were analyzed for the degree of integration of non-technical considerations; and (2) projects were subjected to term frequency mining and term frequency-inverse document frequency (tf-idf) analyses. Results suggest that the integration of socio-economic and cultural considerations into the course project increased in 2016 and 2017; five of twelve student teams in 2014 and eight of ten student teams in 2016 and 2017 integrated non-technical considerations in their analysis to some extent. Analysis concerning the integration of non-technical considerations based on gender demographics and graduate standing identified no significant trends. Term frequency analysis and tf-idf showed that key terms in the “social” and “energy” categories were used significantly more in post-intervention course projects, while use of technical terms did not change. Increasing emphasis and content of nontechnical concepts through integration of WaSH principles appears to have enhanced student consideration of these concepts while maintaining technical content.

Pfluger, A. R., & Munakata Marr, J., & Vanzin, G., & Siegrist, R. L. (2018, June), Learning Benefits of Integrating Socioeconomic and Cultural Considerations into an Onsite Water Reclamation Course Project Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30753

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