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Teaching Non Engineers The Engineering Thought Process With Environmental Engineering As The Instrument

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Tricks of the Trade

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1220.1 - 10.1220.9



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Paper Authors

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Marie Johnson

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Jason Lynch

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Michael Butkus

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

Teaching Non-Engineers the Engineering Thought Process with Environmental Engineering as the Instrument

Jason C. Lynch, Michael A. Butkus, and Marie C. Johnson

Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering United States Military Academy, West Point, NY 10996


Environmental engineering is a broad discipline with seven areas of specialty as identified by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers. Based on application of the environmental engineering program criteria, an ABET accredited program’s curriculum requires students to have familiarity with each of these specialty areas. The challenge in an undergraduate program is to provide this breadth of material coverage while simultaneously presenting courses in a logical fashion so that they build upon and reinforce one another and not appear as individual, disjointed topics. Aligning courses and their content with the engineering thought process is one approach that can achieve both objectives. This paper describes how this concept is applied to a three course engineering sequence offered as a part of a core curriculum to non-engineering students at the United States Military Academy. Engineering design steps such as problem definition, design and analysis are linked with fundamental environmental engineering concepts like risk assessment, pollutant partitioning, and materials balance. Examples of how course objectives, laboratory exercises, and course projects are associated across the program using this framework are provided. By presenting environmental engineering topics oriented along a common theme that is known by the student and reinforced throughout the program of study, these students will be better equipped to solve complex, environmentally related problems and better prepared for specialization in future graduate studies.


Founded in 1802, the United States Military Academy (West Point) was the nation’s first engineering school. Over the years as missions and requirements changed West Point broadened its academic diversity and is no longer strictly an engineering school and today offers majors in 31 different academic disciplines that culminate in a Bachelor of Science degree. The division between cadets majoring in Math, Science, and Engineering (MSE) and Humanities and Social Sciences (HPA) has been relatively even (Figure 1). Regardless of major, every cadet’s core curriculum includes an MSE thread. Courses in this thread are intended to “provide cadets a foundation of fundamental scientific facts and principles, an understanding of the engineering process by which these principles are applied to serve human purposes, and the capacity to use sound methods for analyzing and dealing with scientific and technical matters.”1 This MSE thread is in part fulfilled by a three course engineering sequence. West Point offers seven different engineering sequences from which non-engineering majors can select. The seven

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Johnson, M., & Lynch, J., & Butkus, M. (2005, June), Teaching Non Engineers The Engineering Thought Process With Environmental Engineering As The Instrument Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15248

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