Educating engineering students on energy systems through investor-driven class projects

Tom Ferguson, Paul Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Efficient use of energy resources is becoming increasingly important with respect to minimizing climate change, decreasing financial burdens associated with energy use, and enabling national goals of energy independence. This can only be achieved, however, if engineers of all disciplines have a sound understanding of energy issues as they design their systems. Such facets include not only conversion technology, but also resource availability, energy delivery, policy, reliability, and short and long-term financial, social, and environmental costs. This paper will describe class projects in energy conversion that attempt to raise awareness in these areas, and do so with respect to a diverse group of senior and graduate engineering students. For the projects, students chose a conversion technology primarily for electric power generation, wrote a paper outlining why they supported or opposed its implementation, and then presented their research to their peers. Meanwhile, the entire class was split up into groups of short and long term investors and given a pool of money to allocate to a variety of technologies and sources to create a true energy portfolio. They could then make their investment decisions as they listened to each of the presentations. The quantifiable results of the course comprise two snapshots of the students' perceptions. At the beginning of the class, students completed a survey about general energy issues. The students' perceptions were also compiled upon completion of the project through their investment decisions and a set of associated questions. The results were analyzed with respect to engineering major and also compared to the general population and professionals with a background in energy issues from publicly available surveys and/or governmental energy forecasts. In addition to these results, this research will illustrate the implementation of such class projects, describe common student strengths and weaknesses relative to energy conversion, and explain the importance of defining appropriate prerequisites for a diversity of engineering majors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009
Event2009 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Austin, TX, United States
Duration: Jun 14 2009Jun 17 2009


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