Asee peer logo

Public Policy Analysis for Engineers

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Engineering and Public Policy Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering and Public Policy

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Deborah Diane Stine Carnegie Mellon University Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Deborah Stine is Professor of the Practice for the Engineering and Public Policy Department and the Associate Director for Policy Outreach for the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). She was Executive Director of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) at the White House from 2009-2012. From 2007-2009, she was a science and technology policy specialist with the Congressional Research Service, where she wrote reports and advised members of Congress on science and technology policy issues.

From 1989-2007, she was at the National Academies – the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine – where she was associate director of the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy; director of the National Academies Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellowship Program; and director of the Office of Special Projects. While at the National Academies, she was study director of the landmark National Academies report entitled Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future which proposed the creation of the now established Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). For this work, she received the Presidents Award– the highest staff award offered at the National Academies.

Prior to coming to the Academies, she was a mathematician for the Air Force, an air-pollution engineer for the state of Texas, and an air-issues manager for the Chemical Manufacturers Association. She holds a BS in mechanical and environmental engineering from the University of California, Irvine, an MBA from what is now Texas A&M at Corpus Christi, and a PhD in public administration with a focus on science and technology policy analysis from American University.

visit author page


Deanna H. Matthews Carnegie Mellon University

visit author page

Dr. Deanna H. Matthews is Associate Department Head for Undergraduate Affairs and Assistant Teaching Professor in Engineering and Public Policy, as well as Education Director and researcher in the Green Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. In her role in Engineering and Public Policy, Dr. Matthews oversees the undergraduate programs in EPP. In the Green Design Institute, her research centers on the development and deployment of the Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment tool. As Education Director, she oversees education and outreach initiatives for the Green Design Institute. She is the coordinator and instructor of outreach programs to K-12 students and teachers in school settings and informal educational events. She received her B.S.E. in Civil Engineering from Duke University (1994) and her M.S. (1995) and Ph.D. (2001) in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

visit author page


Nichole Hanus Carnegie Mellon University

visit author page

Nichole Hanus is currently pursuing a PhD in the Engineering and Public Policy department at Carnegie Mellon University. She holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a focus in energy systems from the University of Dayton. Currently, her research combines behavioral decisions sciences and social network analysis methods to identify the catalysts to energy efficient designs and practices.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Public Policy Analysis for Engineers

Public policy issues are important to every field of engineering. Yet, most engineering students know little about the topic. For most students, however, an entire course focused on the topic is not necessary. For example, a class on engineering design could incorporate a case study on 3D printing policy. To respond to this need, Institution X has developed an online module where engineering students learn about the interrelationship of engineering and public policy, how to conduct neutral policy analysis, and then apply that knowledge in case studies to practice the skills they have learned. The modules takes a flipped classroom/active learning approach by using short videos to educate students, activities to practice the skills taught, and incorporates real-world examples such as hydraulic fracturing, drones, and 3D printing. The online module is designed to satisfy ABET criteria 3c and 3h, which requires that engineering students develop:

• (c) an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability.” • (h) the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context.

Students are assessed quantitatively before and after participating in the module with ten multiple choice quiz questions to assess what they have learned. and asked to provide information on the utility of the module and ways to improve it.

An ANOVA analysis of pre/post data for within subjects found that the effect on student’s knowledge of public policy analysis was highly significant with post-test higher than pre-test. For the five questions that were more central to understanding of public policy concepts, the effects of the pre/post test were again highly significant. In addition, the effect of the question and interaction among questions were both not significant indicating that the variation in scores cannot be attributed to a particular question being wrong in the pre-test and correct in the post-test.

Students were also asked to provide feedback on the module. Approximately 91% of the students found that the module was engaging/motivating to complete, and 100% believed it supported their learning. Students enjoyed the videos with real life examples the most, and getting to make decisions on public policy. Videos were far preferred over the text material. Students were asked on a 1 to 5 scale if they have a better understanding of the application of policy analysis for an engineering issue with 1 being low and 5 being high. The results indicate that 33% scored the module a 5, 58% a 4, and 8% a 3 with none at a score of 1 or 2.

The on-line module is now freely accessible and available for use. Data will continue to be collected and analyzed.

We will share our experience with using the module in courses over a two-year period, the data that shows its impact on student outcomes, and suggest ways for others to incorporate the module into their courses.

Stine, D. D., & Matthews, D. H., & Hanus, N. (2016, June), Public Policy Analysis for Engineers Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26014

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015