Project-based sustainability courses provide practical educational experience for students while advancing sustainability within the local community

Research output: Contribution to journalConference article


The implementation of project based learning and subsequent collaborations between the University, local utilities and area businesses, originally aimed at giving senior level engineering students experience in real world problem solving within the area of sustainability have resulted in a successful model for community engagement. Sustainable Energy Systems, taught in the Mechanical Engineering (ME) Department, focuses on renewable energy technologies, such as photovoltaics, wind energy and solar thermal systems. Sustainable Design and Construction, taught in the Civil Engineering (CE) Department, considers the environmental, economic and societal impacts of sustainable materials, methods and technologies used in building construction. Semester-long projects involved pairing student groups from each class with a local business interested in incorporating sustainable technologies into their organization. Teams from the ME department focused primarily on feasibility studies for solar thermal, solar PV and other heat reclamation technologies. Teams from the CE department analyzed existing buildings for the potential of earning green construction and design certifications and made recommendations for the implementation of other energy and material saving technologies. Each project involved meetings with the owners, a site visit, energy assessment by the local electric utility and required the students to hone their professional communication skills. These projects represent a unique opportunity to provide a practical educational experience for students while advancing sustainability within the community. At the close of the semester, one company moved forward with their project, and actually installed a solar thermal system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 26 2016
Event123rd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Jun 26 2016Jun 29 2016


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