Thursday, June 26, 2008 - 9:30 AM
Federal Room B (Capital Hilton)

Integrating Green Engineering Concepts across Disciplines

Sean P. McGinnis, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA

Approaches for integrating green engineering concepts across engineering disciplines will be discussed based on the experiences of the Green Engineering Program at Virginia Tech. This program was initiated over a decade age with a broad mission in education, outreach, and research. In some respects this program might be considered an example of best-practices, while in other respects it is a case study for the challenges of interdisciplinary education.

The educational core of this program is an 18-credit green engineering concentration which has recently been approved as a minor. This curriculum is flexible from a student perspective due to an extensive list of approved courses from a variety of departments. The fact that nearly all of the courses exist independent of the green engineering program facilitates the interdisciplinary scope of such a program in an otherwise rigid department-focused institutional structure. However, there are both recurring issues and long term concerns that will be discussed for a program which stands independent and separate from departments.

Recently, efforts have been made to expand the interdisciplinary nature of the program beyond an extensive menu of courses crossing engineering disciplines. An NSF-sponsored interdisciplinary senior design project which incorporates concepts of green engineering and sustainability as well as formally researches engineering education methods is in a pilot phase. Exposure of green engineering concepts to liberal arts students has also occurred by collaborating with a unique 2-year curriculum in which a cohort of undergraduate students receives broad university credits by considering the theme “Earth Sustainability” across disciplines in their freshman and sophomore years. Consideration of these new efforts as well as the approaches of other institutions to incorporate green engineering concepts provides a diverse and growing number of opportunities which potentially offer significant improvements in the impacts of green engineering education.

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