June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Multidisciplinary Engineering and Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
24.1257.1 - 24.1257.23
The Wicked Problems in Sustainable Engineering (WPSE) Initiative: Exploring theEfficacy of a CrossInstitutional ProjectBased Course OfferingWicked problems are characterized as problems without a conclusive formulation, withnumerous stakeholders’ values determining the quality of any given response. They aresymptoms of each other, essentially unique, and are unlikely to be definitively ‘solved’. Manytechnical sustainability problems show elements of wickedness (e.g. climate change,infrastructure, cities).Exposure to wicked problems during a student’s undergraduate educationis critical to preparing students for careers and global citizenship, but is also challenging. Inresponse to this, we have developed the Wicked Problems in Sustainable Engineering (WPSE)Initiative to provide a centralized connection point for sharing resources and to develop anasynchronous community for schools interested in exposing their students to wicked problems. In this paper, we seek to demonstrate the need for and feasibility of this crosscampusinitiative. We present the program design along with the results of a pilot year of the WPSEcourse offerings during the fall of 2013. The inaugural topic, which will change yearly, hadstudents examine the roots of air pollution. Students were asked to look at varied tactics forresolving wicked problems such as behavioral change and indirect approaches rather thanendofpipe methods. One course focused on social entrepreneurial and bottomup approacheswhile the second course focused on methods of defining, analyzing, and resolving the problemwith focused consideration of different stakeholder perspectives. Both courses had studentteams design responses to the wicked problem as a central project. Results of pre and postsurveys of student attitudes towards sustainability and professional practice, as well as criticaldesign reviews spaced throughout the semester, are presented to demonstrate the potentialbenefits of linked projectbased courses. As WPSE prepares for its second year with a larger number of colleges and universities,we discuss the role of nonprofit organizations as partners in enabling the teaching of realworldand complex topics, blending digital communities and physical classes and project teams toobtain the best aspects of both.
Hess, J. L., & Brownell, S. A., & Dale, A. T. (2014, June), The Wicked Problems in Sustainable Engineering (WPSE) Initiative: Pilot Results of a Cross-Institutional Project-Based Course Offering Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. https://peer.asee.org/23190
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