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Designing-In Sustainability by Linking Engineering Curricula With K-12 Science Projects

[+] Author Affiliations
William Z. Bernstein, Xiulin Ruan, Devarajan Ramanujan, Karthik Ramani

Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

Arjun Ramani

Happy Hollow Elementary School, West Lafayette, IN

Paper No. DETC2012-70461, pp. 305-312; 8 pages
  • ASME 2012 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 9th International Conference on Design Education; 24th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Chicago, Illinois, USA, August 12–15, 2012
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4506-6
  • Copyright © 2012 by ASME


In light of society’s increasing awareness with regards to the health of the environment, many engineering firms are hiring recent engineering graduates with project- (or course-) based experience in environmental sustainability. Currently engineering schools at the collegiate level have addressed this need by modifying their curricula by including additional coursework on sustainability related subjects. The next step of adaptation calls for a holistic treatment of sustainability concepts by integrating them within traditional coursework. Engineering schools have not yet addressed the best way to accomplish this integration due to the concerns stemming from the increase in cognitive load and scheduling pressure. Additionally, it has been shown that K-12 curricula also lack exposure to sustainable thinking. As a result, incoming freshmen are not aware of the inherent correlations between engineering principles, e.g. heat transfer, and environmental sustainability. To prepare the next generation of innovative thinkers to solve these complex, interdisciplinary issues, engineering principles must be contextualized in terms of sustainable design at both the K-12 and undergraduate levels. To meet this need, the authors developed a general framework for introducing sustainable design thinking into K-12 student projects. A pilot case is presented to illustrate a particular student’s (listed as a co-author) growth through a newly gained understanding of environmental sustainability through experimentation. The project specifically addresses various insulation materials for residential buildings by judging their individual environmental advantages and economic feasibility. The main outcome of this project is the extensive redesign of an existing undergraduate heat and mass transfer lab experiment.

Copyright © 2012 by ASME



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