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The Development Of Energy Policies By Undergraduate Engineering Students

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Engineering, Engineers and Setting Public Policy

Tagged Division

Engineering and Public Policy

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1405.1 - 12.1405.14



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Paper Authors


John Reisel University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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John R. Reisel is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM.) He serves as Director of the Combustion Diagnostics Lab, Associate Director of the Center for Alternative Fuels, and co-Director of the Energy Conversion Efficiency Lab. His research efforts focus on combustion and energy utilization. Dr. Reisel was a 2005 recipient of the UWM Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award, the 2000 UWM-College of Engineering and Applied Science Outstanding Teaching Award, and a 1998 recipient of the SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award. Dr. Reisel is a member of ASEE, ASME, SAE, and the Combustion Institute. Dr. Reisel received his B.M.E degree from Villanova University in 1989, his M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University in 1991, and his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University in 1994.

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



This paper describes the incorporation of a project involving the development of energy policies by students in a senior-level technical elective course in Mechanical Engineering. As part of the course, students were engaged in a semester-long project that resulted in the development by each student of an energy policy that outlined the direction that they thought the United States should take over the next 25 years with regards to electricity generation.

The project consisted of several steps. First, each student had to choose one of nine possible electricity-generation techniques to research in depth. The students were then given two months to research the current state and projected improvements of their chosen technology, as well as the economics, environmental impact, and public perception of their technology. The students then were asked to prepare two reports on their research. The first report presented a detailed summary of their research, intended primarily for the instructor. The second report was a short summary of their findings, which were distributed to everyone in the class.

The next stage of the project lasted for two weeks. In this part, the students were to read the summaries provided by the other students, and then develop their own vision of the electricity generation infrastructure in the United States in the year 2030 and their plan on how to get to that point. The students then submitted their proposed plan, representing the development by each student of their own proposed energy policy for electricity generation.

Some of the benefits of this project are (1) the increased awareness on the part of the students on the roles that engineers can play in the development of public policy related to engineering issues, (2) improved writing skills so that these future engineers can better communicate with a non-technical audience, and (3) an opportunity to allow the students to consider contemporary issues and the societal context of engineering, as well as an exposure to some of the tools they need for life-long learning. This last benefit may aid programs with regards to ABET- accreditation. While conducting and grading the project, some ideas for improving the project were noted, and these are discussed as well.

Introduction and Background

Engineers live and work in a society that often makes choices based on reasons other than technological merit. Yet the education of engineering students concentrates primarily in the scientific and design realms, and rightfully so as most engineers have to be very knowledgeable in these areas to perform their jobs well. But a disservice that this education provides is that many engineering students graduate without a good understanding of the non-technological issues that may impact their careers. Their education also often does not provide them with good skills for communicating their expertise to non-engineers. ABET, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, does try to have schools address these concerns by having them

Reisel, J. (2007, June), The Development Of Energy Policies By Undergraduate Engineering Students Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1745

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