Asee peer logo

Service Learning in a Multi-Disciplinary Renewable Energy Engineering Course

Download Paper |


2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Technical Session

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1283.1 - 22.1283.11



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Stacy Gleixner San Jose State University

visit author page

Dr. Stacy Gleixner is an Associate Professor in Chemical and Materials Engineering at San Jose State University. She teaches a broad range of engineering classes related to introductory materials science, electronic materials, kinetics, microelectronics processing, photovoltaics, and alternative energy. In 2010, she was awarded the College of Engineering Award for Excellence in Service. In 2007 - 2008, she was an SJSU Teacher Scholar. In 2002, she was awarded the College of Engineering Excellence in Teaching award. Dr. Gleixner has an active research program related to designing and fabricating solar cells and MEMS devices.

visit author page


Patricia Ryaby Backer San Jose State University

visit author page

Patricia Backer is a Professor of Technology and the Director of General Engineering at SJSU. In 1997, she received a Fulbright Scholar award in Peru where she taught on the topics of computer-based multimedia. At SJSU, she is involved in developing and assessing outreach programs to increase the number of underrepresented students in engineering.

visit author page


Elena Klaw, Ph.D. San Jose State University

visit author page

Elena Klaw is the Director of the Center for Community Learning & Leadership at San Jose State University. Her Ph.D. is in Clinical-Community Psychology.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Service Learning in a Multi-Disciplinary Renewable Energy Engineering CourseOne of the most significant challenges facing this coming generation of engineers is how to fightthe complex issue of climate change. One aspect of this that is playing an increasingly importantrole is alternative and renewable energy technologies. Emerging applications such as solar cells,wind energy conversion devices, and fuel cells involve significant contributions across a range oftraditional engineering disciplines. Therefore, for companies to be successful in researching,designing, and manufacturing these products, they must operate in a truly multi-disciplinaryenvironment. To prepare graduates to be successful in this, engineering education must providestudents with multi-disciplinary learning environments.We offer a general engineering course on Renewable Energy Engineering. The course is open tojuniors, seniors, and graduate students of all engineering majors and is part of the College ofEngineering’s multi-disciplinary minor in Green Engineering. The course has been offered threetimes to date and typically has representatives from every engineering major on campus. Theclass covers a range of renewable energy topics including: how traditional energy is produced,measured, and sold; solar thermal; photovoltaics; wind; hydropower; fuel cells; biofuels;geothermal; and ocean, wave, and tidal energy. In all of the topics, the classes cover enough ofthe engineering fundamentals to do mini-design projects in each technology. The classroomperiods use an active learning methodology. The classes are structured such that the studentswork together in multi-disciplinary teams where each student is able to bring the expertise oftheir major to understanding the technology. For example, the background of mechanicalengineers combined with electrical engineers will allow a team to begin to grasp the basicfundamentals of fluid flow and power generation needed to understand how a hydropower plantoperates. Details of the class structure, active learning assignments, design projects, andteamwork structure will be presented.A significant assignment in the class is a multi-disciplinary, team based service learning project.Each team is assigned a renewable energy technology (such as wind power) at the start of thesemester. They have a series of assignments designed to give them technical depth in the areaand confidence as an “expert” in the technology. They then design a hands-on teachingdemonstration for the technology. They bring this to an after school program for 4th- 7th gradersat a nearby community center. The community center is part of a unique University/ city/community partnership (CommUniverCity). The service learning project is facilitated by theUniversity’s Center for Community Learning and Leadership. These will be discussed in moredetail in the paper. Details of the service learning project as well as assessment of the servicelearning experience on student perception of their confidence as engineers, their confidence tomake a difference in society, the broad view of the role of engineers in society, and the role ofmulti-disciplinary teams in engineering will be presented.

Gleixner, S., & Backer, P. R., & Ph.D., E. K. (2011, June), Service Learning in a Multi-Disciplinary Renewable Energy Engineering Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18904

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: © 2011 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