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Redesign of a Sustainability Experiential Learning Module for Transferability and Portability

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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

Civil Engineering Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1319.1 - 26.1319.10



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Paper Authors


Claire Louise Antaya Dancz Arizona State University Orcid 16x16

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Ph.D. Candidate in Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University

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Kevin J. Ketchman


Melissa M. Bilec University of Pittsburgh

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Dr. Bilec is an associate professor in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Dr. Bilec’s research program focuses on the built environment, life cycle assessment, sustainable healthcare, and energy impacts. She is interested in improving system-level environmental performance of buildings, while developing a deeper understanding of indoor environmental quality, occupant impacts, and energy use. She is the Principal Investigator of a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research project, NSF EFRI-Barriers, Understanding, Integration – Life cycle Development (BUILD). As the associate director of education outreach in the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, Pitt’s center for green design, she translates research to community outreach programs and develops sustainable engineering programs for K-12 education.

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Amy E. Landis Arizona State University

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Dr. Landis joined ASU in January 2012 as an Associate Professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. She began her career as an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, after having obtained her PhD in 2007 from the University of Illinois at Chicago under the supervision of Dr. Thomas L. Theis. She has developed a research program in sustainable engineering of bioproducts. Her research ranges from design of systems based on industrial ecology and byproduct synergies, life cycle and sustainability assessments of biopolymers and biofuels, and design and analysis of sustainable solutions for healthcare. Since 2007, she has lead seven federal research projects and collaborated on many more, totaling over $7M in research, with over $12M in collaborative research. At ASU, Dr. Landis continues to grow her research activities and collaborations to include multidisciplinary approaches to sustainable systems with over 60 peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Landis is dedicated to sustainability engineering education and outreach; she works with local high schools, after school programs, local nonprofit organizations, and museums to integrate sustainability and engineering into K-12 and undergraduate curricula.

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Appealing to Our Youth Through Active and Experiential Design For Environment Engineering ModuleThe National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges of Engineering offercontext for exposing engineering students to role of an engineer in modern society.Adoption of these challenges within engineering curricula engages a diverse array ofinterested students by establishing contextualized linkages between course content andthe contributions an engineer makes to solve global issues through systems-thinkinginnovation. In order to teach to the engineering challenges of our global society,professors at XXX and the XXX have adopted a modular approach to introducesustainable engineering concepts within traditional civil engineering curricula. This paperhighlights lessons learned from the creation, packaging, and distribution of a module thatteaches Restore and Improve Urban Infrastructure NAE Grand Challenge, called hereinthe Sustainable Metrics Module. This module has been integrated into over 15 classesover the past five years. It’s learning objectives are to provide hands-on, activeexperience to introduce civil engineers to concepts of design for environment, design fordemanufacturability, design for materials recovery, as well as sustainability metrics. Inthe activity portion of this module, students were placed in teams of 4 and given oneoffice chair per team along with a set of common tools. The office chairs represent designevolution; they include a 1950’s chair, early 1990’s chair, late 1990’s chair and a 2000’schair that was advertised as ‘green’ based on its ease of disassembly and materials. Theteams were then asked to disassemble and reassemble their designated office chair in atimed competition between their peers. Students tracked metrics representing design fordisassembly and design for materials selection such as number of parts, number of toolsused, number of materials used in the chairs, and recyclability of parts for each chairwhile completing disassembly. At the conclusion of the activity, students defended theirevaluation of the sustainability of the chairs based on the metrics collected during the lab.The instructor leads the class through a guided discussion on design for environmentprinciples and material selection; this discussion includes how an office chair can betranslated to represent many examples of urban infrastructure that require retrofittingand/or redesign.The Sustainable Metrics Module was packaged for adoption by a wide range ofengineering instructors. The complete module package contains: a summary of learningobjectives and module activities, lecture slides and notes, recommended readings,detailed description of the experiential learning activity, an assignment, and a pre-andpost-module cognitive assessment. The module package was shared though thedevelopers’ networks and within the last year was placed online for free download on ourengineering education website (XXX). Since then, the module has spread to severalclassrooms across the country and has been used into two senior-level, interdisciplinarydesign courses to educate both civil engineers as well as students majoring insustainability. The results of the increased module adoption indicate that student learningoutcomes, as measured through student assignments and the pre- and post-moduleassessment survey, are consistently achieved. However, since the activity itself requiresexpensive chairs that can be cumbersome to move around large campuses, the module’stransferability and widespread adoption is slightly hindered. A decision matrix andfeedback from faculty was used to evaluate replacements for the chair. While it mightseem simple to replace the chair with any product that can be disassembled, the multiplelayers of learning outcomes achieved from this particular mix of chairs is quite difficultto replicate. This presentation will engage the audience in dismantling products andbrainstorming alternative solutions to enhance the transferability of active learningmodules.

Dancz, C. L. A., & Ketchman, K. J., & Bilec, M. M., & Landis, A. E. (2015, June), Redesign of a Sustainability Experiential Learning Module for Transferability and Portability Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24656

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