Exploring the Expanding Impact of a Sustainable Development Engineering Course Through a Critical Evolutionary Review

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Conference Proceeding

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sustainable development, global competency, engineering education, community engagement

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Exploring the Expanding Impact of a Sustainable Development Engineering Course Through a Critical Evolutionary Review A Sustainable Development Engineering course (cross listed in the College of PublicHealth as Water Pollution and Treatment) has evolved over seven years at this university toincorporate interdisciplinary groups of graduate students to engage in critical thinking andproblem solving. The objectives of the course are to 1) apply engineering fundamentals andappropriate technology in design, construction, operation, and maintenance of engineeringprojects that serve people living in the developing world and smaller communities in the U.S.,2) learn how community-based engineering projects fit into larger, global issues of sustainabledevelopment, 3) develop an understanding of the important inter-relationship of public healthand engineering; 4) incorporate environmental, societal, and economic considerations andcommunity participation into engineering practice. As part of the Sustainable Development Engineering course, interdisciplinary groups areexpected to collaborate with community partners and produce a valuable suite of deliverablesincluding a construction project, a multimedia presentation, and a project proposal to communitystakeholders. The relationship is mutually beneficial—students provide on-site skilled labor,visually powerful multi-media presentations, and high quality project proposals for thecommunity; in return, the students create project deliverables that act as a professional product todisplay the knowledge and skills they have developed during the course. In addition, eachdeliverable integrates varying levels of partnership with the community, sharpening theirteamwork and cross-cultural global competencies. Furthermore, a reinforcing loop has emergedover the years of the course’s evolution as former students have become instructors for thecourse, grafting their field experience into lectures and community partnershipdevelopment. This affords instructors opportunities to improve skills in lesson planning,instructing, and classroom management. Because of the valuable and broadening impact of the class, the purpose of this paper isto investigate the course evolution over the past seven years and the manner in which the coursechanges have translated into an expanding impact. This will be achieved through a comparisonand critical reflection of previous syllabi in conjunction with class goals, global competencies,and engineering education literature.

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Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition on June 13, 2015 in Seattle, Washington, 20 p.