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Providing Deep, Foundational Learning in an Introductory Energy Systems & Sustainability Course

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

ECCD Innovative Teaching Methods & Outreach

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1281.1 - 26.1281.15



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Paper Authors


Paul J. Weber Lake Superior State University

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Dr. Paul J. Weber is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering & Technology at Lake Superior State University. His primary interests are in the areas of engineering education, renewable energy conversion systems, sustainability and resource usage, robotics, and digital systems.

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Joseph P Moening Lake Superior State University

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Providing Deep, Foundational Learning in an Introductory Energy Conversion & Sustainability CourseEnergy conversion and other resource usage are foundational topics that have far-reachingeconomic, societal, and environmental impacts. Furthermore, they are inextricably linked, whereenergy is needed to extract resources and resources are needed to convert between differentforms of energy. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has identified“resource management” (including energy) as one of the “…most important trends shaping ourworld out to the year 2035” [1].Recently universities have begun to strengthen and/or develop programs in the energy area. Anexample of this is the Consortium of Universities for Sustainable Power (CUSP)TM, the goal ofwhich is to “…collectively evolve and promote the curriculum develop[ment]…” in this area [2].It was within this context that a new Sustainable Energy concentration was developed at theauthors’ university. This concentration is composed of courses such as power electronics, powertransmission and distribution, and electro-mechanical systems. A new course entitled EnergySystems & Sustainability was also developed.This new course is designed to provide a broad overview and allows both engineering and non-engineering students to gain exposure to these areas. The primary course objectives are forstudents to be able to: • Understand and use appropriate terminology to discuss energy conversion systems and sustainability, • Analyze (traditional and alternative) energy conversion systems for efficiency and power transfer, and • Measurably evaluate the sustainability of energy conversion systems.These objectives were explicitly developed with Bloom’s Taxonomy in mind [3,4]. In order topromote higher levels of learning, especially for the latter two objectives, a variety of activitiesthat were developed that embodied different modes of learning. These included: • Connecting energy use to their daily lives via energy audits, • Multiple field trips to local energy conversion facilities, including hydro, photovoltaic, and biomass systems, • Real-world examples and in-class hands-on items such as photovoltaic cells and wind turbine models, • In-class worksheets that cover both specific problems and more open-ended questions, and • [Preferably service learning] projects completed in multi-disciplinary teams.For the purpose of analyzing the course’s impacts in a broader sense, a mix of quantitative andqualitative methods will be used. The first qualitative method will employ concept maps toanalyze written exams and oral presentations, in order to determine the exact areas ofunderstanding, similar to Hill & Plantenberg [5]. These concept maps may then be compared toexperts in the field of energy conversion and/or sustainability depending on the topic. Inaddition, the final exam will be compared to a benchmark quiz from the first week of class.Lastly, a survey will be distributed to the students to gather their perceptions about engineeringand about other disciplines. The survey will also inquire which activities (mentioned above) hadthe greatest impact in which of the objectives and why. Due to the small class size, these will notbe repeatable results. Instead, as stated, a more in-depth approach to assessment will be taken.References[1] "Resource Management," Center for Strategic and International Studies, [Online]. Available: [Accessed 19 October 2014].[2] "Consortium of Universities for Sustainable Power," [Online]. Available: [Accessed 19 October 2014].[3] D. Krathwohl, "A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy: An Overview," Theory Into Practice, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 212-218, 2002.[4] M. Forehandv, "Bloom's Taxonomy: Original and Revised. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology.," 2005. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 19 October 2014].[5] R. Hill and K. Plantenberg, "Assessing a Conceptual Approach to Undergraduate Dynamics Instruction," in ASEE NCS Conference, Oakland, MI, 2014.

Weber, P. J., & Moening, J. P. (2015, June), Providing Deep, Foundational Learning in an Introductory Energy Systems & Sustainability Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24618

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