June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
Engineering and Public Policy
12.1405.1 - 12.1405.14
THE DEVELOPMENT OF ENERGY POLICIES BY UNDERGRADUATE ENGINEERING STUDENTS
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. https://peer.asee.org/1745
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