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Understanding the System: Sustainability projects increase student interest and learning

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Integrating Sustainability Across the Curriculum

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1399.1 - 25.1399.19



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Paper Authors


Noel E. Bormann P.E. Gonzaga University

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Noel E. Bormann is a professor and Chair, Civil Engineering Department, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA 99258.

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Mara London Gonzaga University


Andrew Douglas Matsumoto Gonzaga University

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School of Engineering

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Melanie Ruth Walter

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Spencer Joseph Fry

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Understanding the System: Sustainability projects increase student interest and learningThroughout Africa, population growth has caused enormous strain to the natural and constructedenvironment. Throughout the world, there is increased attention on the importance of developingsustainable solutions to urgent and interrelated problems of society. Students in all disciplinesneed effective and robust education in sustainability, and that requires an increasedunderstanding of global systems. Developing useful skills through the application ofsustainability principles to engineering topics is a challenge, let alone understanding andapplying agricultural, energy, legal, political, cultural, biological and economic sustainabilityconcepts. For engineering students and educators to meet this challenge requires a commitmentto spend additional efforts in project activities.Student efforts expended and the resulting outcomes from a project-based learning capstonedesign course are considered. The project “Integrating Improved Sustainable Technologies intothe Heart of the Home-the Kitchen” focuses on delivering improved sustainable technologies tohomes in rural Africa and is funded by the US EPA P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet)Program. The project team is comprised of faculty and students from civil engineering,mechanical engineering and engineering management (with a business emphasis), all who areinterested in the application of sustainability.The project systematically integrates technologies that can improve kitchen activities to betterthe health of families (especially women and children) and at the same time reduce resourceconsumption. Student deliverables present improvements to ceramic water filters that use lessclay material and require less fuel to fire in a kiln. This reduces deforestation. The team alsoinvestigates a cooking fuel using waste corn stover pellets. This also reduces deforestation andimproves watersheds. Finally, waste heat from cooking is evaluated as a method to reduceharmful particulate concentrations in the kitchen. A key project requirement was to develop aproject implementation plan. This plan focuses on overcoming potential economic, educationaland cultural obstacles to implementation and suggests ways in which the technologies developedby the team can be successfully adopted in rural Africa.The challenging project requirements are observed to increase efforts and time spent by the teammembers. The increased interest and greater effort appears to improve the student learningoutcomes related to sustainability.

Bormann, N. E., & London, M., & Matsumoto, A. D., & Walter, M. R., & Fry, S. J. (2012, June), Understanding the System: Sustainability projects increase student interest and learning Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22156

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