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Organization Of An Introductory Green Engineering Course For Engineering Undergraduates

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Sustainable Energy Issues in Education

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.956.1 - 13.956.12



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Paper Authors

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Barbara Utley Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Andrea Ludwig Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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John Cundiff Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Sean McGinnis Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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

Organization of an Introductory Green Engineering Course for Engineering Undergraduates Abstract An “Introduction to Green Engineering” course is one of two core courses required for a Green Engineering minor. Since the course attracts students from all disciplines within the College of Engineering, it is challenging to teach given the variety of backgrounds, specific skills and knowledge, and perspectives. Analysis of course assessment data and revision to the course content and teaching methods are part of an on-going effort to improve this course.

The Green Engineering course has lectures which present background material on the key environmental and energy issues facing society. To differentiate this course from one in environmental science, an engineering analysis component is included with the assignment of four mini-projects which are completed by teams of not more than four students. The projects are: 1) biomass logistics, a project to document the increase in per-Mg feedstock hauling cost as plant capacity increases; 2) climate, a project to calculate per capita carbon release for Virginia Tech students, Blacksburg residents, and Montgomery County residents; 3) wetland design, a project to design a constructed wetland facility for the treatment of small municipality wastewater; and 4) biomaterials, an optimization problem to design a structural component using an optimum mix of recycled plastic and organic fiber.


Our current fossil-fuel based United States and world economy is not sustainable. Engineers from every discipline have a role to play; they have an important contribution to make as we transition to a more sustainable existence. President Bill Clinton spoke at the 100th anniversary of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers and reviewed the challenges facing society today. He said, “This is a wonderful time to be an engineer.4” Yes, the challenges are great and will affect the daily lives of most people on this planet. The fundamental goal of the Green Engineering course is to help engineers from all disciplines see how they can use their unique knowledge to move toward sustainability, where sustainability is defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs1.

This paper describes the on-going development of a course, “Introduction to Green Engineering,” which is offered by the College of Engineering (COE) and is available to students from any engineering discipline at Virginia Tech. The Green Engineering program has been in existence at Virginia Tech for about a decade with a formal curriculum associated with it for the past 6 years. This course is one of two core courses required for an 18 credit minor. The other core course is “Environmental Life Cycle Analysis.” To complete the minor, students also select 6 credits from approved engineering electives and 6 credits from approved environmentally- focused, but not engineering, courses.


Utley, B., & Ludwig, A., & Cundiff, J., & McGinnis, S. (2008, June), Organization Of An Introductory Green Engineering Course For Engineering Undergraduates Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4452

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