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Teaching Sustainable Engineering Ten Years Later: What’s Worked & What’s Next?

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Sustainable Engineering

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1226.1 - 11.1226.7



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Paper Authors


Richard Ciocci Pennsylvania State University-Harrisburg

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Richard Ciocci is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg campus. Dr. Ciocci is a registered Professional Engineer with the PhD and BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland and an MS in Engineering Management from the University of Dayton. His research interests include design for the environment, lead-free electronics, sustainable engineering, and advanced manufacturing methods. He currently serves as Secretary/Treasurer of the Executive Committee of the Technology and Society Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

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

Teaching Sustainable Engineering Ten Years Later: What’s Worked & What’s Next? Abstract

Teaching environmentally related courses in environmental engineering and mechanical engineering technology curricula at two institutions has generated a wealth of experiences. Design for the Environment at the associate level, Design for Society at the senior level, and Sustainable Engineering at the graduate level are similar, complementary courses. Topics in each include green engineering and environmentally-conscious manufacturing. Environmental awareness discussions are included to make clear the perspective of why engineering students need to learn about green design. The writing components in each course are more involved than those in other engineering courses.

Whereas each course has undergone student and faculty assessments, an accounting of the results reveals similarities and differences in student reactions to environmentally considerate material. This paper includes numerical analysis of student assessments and faculty reviews for the purpose of measuring progress towards common objectives. The paper also discusses qualitative data for understanding the direction sustainable engineering education might take. This analysis becomes useful when making changes to existing courses and plans for future ones by identifying what has worked well and what has not.

Sustainable engineering

While the definition of sustainable development traces to the Brundtland Commission in 1989, a working one for sustainable engineering continues to evolve. The Centre for Sustainable Engineering defines the term as “Engineering technologies and services which deliver greater resource productivity or efficiency and fewer emissions of hazardous substances and/or emissions presenting lower hazards.”1 Considering greater productivity and efficiency in resource use is not a new concept to design engineers. However, the increased awareness of hazardous emissions and their effects is.

As the definition of sustainable engineering has evolved, so has the engineering coursework. Two similar courses at different institutions began in 1995 and 1996. The first, Engineering (ENGR) 271, Design for the Environment, became a requirement of an associate-degree program in mechanical engineering technology (MET). According to the catalog description, the course “examines the effects of progress and advances in technology on the global environment. Product design and manufacturing processes are studied for their effects on the environment.” In the following year, the second institution added the course Engineering Technology (ET) 420, Design for Society, to its bachelor-level program in mechanical engineering technology. Its description is, “an interdisciplinary study of the engineering design process and the influence of society and culture on design.” Although a technical elective initially, the course is required today. In 2001 that same institution added an upper-level course for its senior and graduate students. Environmental Engineering (ENVE) 430, Sustainable Engineering, is a technical elective accepted in a variety of engineering and engineering technology programs. Its description is “a course on engineering which uses ecological principles to minimize waste and

Ciocci, R. (2006, June), Teaching Sustainable Engineering Ten Years Later: What’s Worked & What’s Next? Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--833

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