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Modeling Nature: Green Engineering For A Sustainable World

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Innovative Courses/Pedagogies in Liberal Education II

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.881.1 - 15.881.10



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Paper Authors

author page

George Catalano State University of New York, Binghamton

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

Modeling Nature: Green Engineering for a Sustainable World


A new course has been developed and offered which focuses upon sustainable engineering. The key elements of the course include introduction to the complex systems, systems engineering methods for complex systems, life cycle analysis, hard and soft system methodologies, failure analysis using rich pictures and reflection upon the impacts engineering has upon both society and the natural world through consideration of the writings of E.F. Schumacher. Cases included in the course focus on hydraulic fracturing and its possible use in Upstate New York and the oil spill associated with the Exxon Valdez.


A new course has been introduced into the undergraduate engineering program which focuses on sustainable engineering from a complex systems perspective. Sustainable engineering, one facet in the broader discussion of sustainability, can be defined as environmentally conscious attitudes, values, and principles, combined with science, technology, and engineering practice, to develop products and processes directed toward enhancing the human experience while improving local and global environmental quality. It begins with our ability to model nature. Sustainable engineering encompasses all engineering disciplines, and is consistent and compatible with sound engineering design principles. It is, in part, focused on design with the objective of minimizing overall environmental impact (including energy utilization and waste production) throughout the life cycle of a product or process -from initial extraction of raw materials to ultimate disposal of materials that cannot be reused or recycled at the end of the product life. However, this approach may not be adequate to address the continued and accelerating deterioration of the Earth. Ultimately a new engineering design paradigm may be required – one that addresses the following question --rather than designing to reduce the negative impact, can we now design products and processes that have a positive impact on the Earth? By the end of the course, students understand the various aspects of sustainability and designing for a sustainable future. The specific course goals include the following expectations of the abilities of students: ≠ Understand sustainability, sustainable development, and sustainable engineering ≠ Model complex systems using control systems theory; ≠ Perform a Life Cycle Analysis; ≠ Use a Soft Systems Methodology approach; ≠ Perform a failure analysis using a Rich Picture approach ≠ Understand and reflect upon the impacts of engineering on society as well as the Earth.

The present work describes the systems approach taken in this course, including Life Cycle Analysis and Soft Systems methodology and applies those tools to the case of hydraulic fracturing which is presently being considered in Upstate New York. Failure analysis using Rich Pictures is applied to the case of the Exxon Valdez. Lastly to put the questions associated with

Catalano, G. (2010, June), Modeling Nature: Green Engineering For A Sustainable World Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16810

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