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The Engineering Science Praxis Sequence: Challenges And Opportunities When Integrating Sustainable Development Into The Engineering Design Classroom

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Design in the Classroom

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1216.1 - 14.1216.16



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Paper Authors

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Jason Foster University of Toronto


Alexandra Heeney University of Toronto

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Alexandra Heeney is a University of Toronto National Scholar in her 3rd year of undergraduate Engineering Science at the University of Toronto, majoring in computer engineering. She has been involved with Sustainable Development (SD) projects and SD education for several years, as a participant at the Design Science Laboratory at the United Nations in New York City, a delegate in sustainable development education for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO in Ottawa, and is now working with Jason Foster, Engineering Science Design Educator, on integrating SD concepts into the Engineering Science design Praxis Series of courses from curriculum planning through to implementation as a TA for some of these courses.

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

Praxis III – promoting an interdisciplinary approach to solving global problems through a course focusing on sustainable development and engineering design


This paper will discuss how Engineering Science, a division within the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada, has developed an undergraduate curriculum to foster engineers that can meaningfully contribute to sustainable development. In particular, Engineering Science has developed Praxis III, a course for second year Engineering Science students, which takes both a systems engineering and an interdisciplinary approach to solving complex global problems and begins to integrate issues surrounding globalism and sustainable development. This paper will describe the broader curriculum context for this course, the content and format of Praxis III as it existed in the 2007 and 2008 academic years, the training in problem-solving that students receive, the lessons learned, and future plans.



The University of Toronto, located in the multicultural city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is itself a multicultural institution. It “offers an education on a global scale” with “students and faculty drawn from around the world” where many of the faculty members are “international leaders in their fields”. The University of Toronto has been “recognized as Canada's top university and one of North America's best public research universities”[1]. By Canadian standards, the University of Toronto is a large institution serving approximately 52,000 undergraduate students across three campuses[2]. As such the University offers a diverse set of undergraduate programs, both in arts and science as well as in engineering.

The Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto is “Canada's largest engineering school and is widely recognized as one of the best in North America”, attracting “…the top math and science students from across Canada and internationally.”[2] The Faculty offers eight core undergraduate Engineering programs – Chemical, Civil, Computer, Electrical, Industrial, Materials, Mechanical, and Mineral – and one elite program, Engineering Science. The core eight programs comprise approximately 3,300 students, while an additional 1,000 are enrolled in Engineering Science[4].

Engineering Science “…offers a unique and dynamic program designed to provide superior students with an undergraduate education in the most innovative disciplines within engineering”[5]. The Engineering Science curriculum is divided into two sections, the Foundation and the Options, each lasting two years (four academic terms). The four Foundation terms “…provide a strong foundation in science, math, technology and design”, and include courses that cover classical mechanics, structures and materials, quantum physics, systems biology, fluid dynamics, robotics design, thermodynamics, linear algebra, calculus, computer programming, and electrical fundamentals[6]. Engineering Science is by nature a multidisciplinary program that enables students to work within and across disciplines.

Foster, J., & Heeney, A. (2009, June), The Engineering Science Praxis Sequence: Challenges And Opportunities When Integrating Sustainable Development Into The Engineering Design Classroom Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5777

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