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Using Public Policy Theory to Improve Power Engineering Education

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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

Engineering and Public Policy I

Tagged Division

Engineering and Public Policy

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1438.1 - 25.1438.15



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Paper Authors

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Timothy R.B. Taylor P.E. University of Kentucky


Johne' M. Parker University of Kentucky

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Johne' M. Parker is an Associate Professor of mechanical engineering.

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Using Public Policy Theory to improve Power Engineering EducationAs society continually increases its reliance on complex, highly integratedtechnological systems to function engineering education must evolve to include notonly traditional engineering subjects but also topics including business, economics,and public policy. The American Society of Civil Engineers state in the CivilEngineering Body of Knowledge for the 21st Century that the next generation of“engineers need to understand the engineering/public policy interface” tosuccessfully operate in the new millennium. Other professional engineeringsocieties have made similar statements. The need for a multidisciplinary approachis especially true in the electric power industry, where generation technology ischallenged by evolving electricity markets, regulations, and societal pressure forsustainable sources of energy. While incorporating conventional business andeconomic theory into engineering education is challenging, these fields are similarto engineering in that their foundations is often found in mathematics. However,the more fluid and seemingly chaotic nature of public policy can be challenging toengineering students.The Department of Energy funded Power and Energy Institute of Kentucky (PEIK)was recently established to improve the undergraduate and graduate engineertraining across engineering divisions in power engineering. One of the core classesof the PEIK program focuses on the incorporation of public policy into engineeringdecision making. As part of this new course undergraduate and graduate studentsfrom electrical, mechanical, biosystems, mining and civil engineering receivetraining in public policy theories including institutional rational choice, multiplestream framework, punctuated-equilibrium, and innovation-diffusion. Theinstructors present these theories as a means to structure the public policy processin a manner that would be familiar to engineers. The students were then asked touse the public policy theories in engineering decision making in homework, exam,and term project problems related to electric market regulation, renewable energy,nuclear energy, and generation selection decisions. The public policy theoriesallowed the student a structured method to evaluate policy risks associated withtheir technical solutions. Student performance on exam, homework, term projectproblems and course evaluation from the first offering of the course indicate thatthe theories may be a useful method for incorporating public policy intoengineering education. As the initial offering served as a pilot project for the classfuture data collection and research efforts are discussed.

Taylor, T. R., & Parker, J. M. (2012, June), Using Public Policy Theory to Improve Power Engineering Education Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22195

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