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Special Issue "Engineering Education for a Sustainable Energy Future"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Energy Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Jan E. DeWaters
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Coulter School of Engineering and Institute for STEM Education, Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY 13699, USA
Interests: energy and climate literacy; energy and environmental education; STEM education research
Prof. Dr. Angela R. Bielefeldt
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Civil, Environmental & Architectural Engineering and Engineering Plus Program, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder CO, 80309, USA
Interests: engineering education research; ethics education; service-learning; sustainability education; professional social responsibility

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Please consider sharing your recent work in this Special Issue of Sustainability, “Engineering Education for a Sustainable Energy Future.” We welcome a range of submissions, including research manuscripts, case studies, reviews, and commentaries, all related to the broad topics of this Special Issue. With its direct connections to a range of societal and environmental conditions such as climate change, energy itself may well be the key sustainability issue we must address in the immediate future. Effective education, in terms of both WHAT we teach as well as HOW we teach, will help to prepare emerging leaders to take on this challenge and successfully shift us toward a sustainable energy future. The entire engineering community has a role to play, and contributions relevant for single disciplines, interdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary integrations with engineering are of interest. We look forward to preparing an issue that engages the sustainability education community with a variety of meaningful and thought-provoking submissions.

Prof. Dr. Jan E. DeWaters
Prof. Dr. Angela R. Bielefeldt
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Energy education
  • Engineering education
  • Sustainability
  • Renewable energy
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Environmental impact modeling
  • Global material flow analysis
  • Energy conservation
  • Water–energy–food nexus

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Article
An Action Research on the Long-Term Implementation of an Engineering-Centered PjBL of Sustainable Energy in a Rural Middle School
Sustainability 2021, 13(19), 10626; https://doi.org/10.3390/su131910626 - 24 Sep 2021
Viewed by 431
Abstract
(1) Background: Due to the high proportion of disadvantaged students in a rural school in Taiwan and the gap between students’ concepts and practices of environmental protection and sustainable energy, four science and mathematics teachers in this school planned an engineering-centred PjBL of [...] Read more.
(1) Background: Due to the high proportion of disadvantaged students in a rural school in Taiwan and the gap between students’ concepts and practices of environmental protection and sustainable energy, four science and mathematics teachers in this school planned an engineering-centred PjBL of sustainable energy curriculum in a Makers Club to enhance students’ creativity, engineering technical skills, practices of environmental protection and sustainable energy, and learning attitudes; (2) Methods: This study is a four-year action research. Teachers and students initiated the idea from rebuilding an old fan in a classroom; (3) Results: The students in the Makers Club improved their engineering technical skills and created various green-power generation devices (evolved from a ventilation ball generator, hydropower, ocean current power generators to tiny, 3D-printing wind power generators). They turned environmental protection and sustainable energy concepts into actions during practices and won awards from science and engineering fairs every year. This creative and supportive atmosphere spread from the club to the whole school and improved the students’ practices of environmental protection and learning attitudes after long-term implementation; (4) Conclusions: The design principles of the engineering-centred PjBL of sustainable energy curriculum played a critical role and were outlined at the end of the study. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Engineering Education for a Sustainable Energy Future)
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Article
Research Insights and Challenges of Secondary School Energy Education: A Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells Case Study
Sustainability 2021, 13(19), 10581; https://doi.org/10.3390/su131910581 - 24 Sep 2021
Viewed by 501
Abstract
The research achievements of a university chemistry lab regarding dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) were transformed into a high school hands-on course by simplifying the experimental steps and equipment. Our research methodology was action research. We verified the DSSC course step by step. First, [...] Read more.
The research achievements of a university chemistry lab regarding dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) were transformed into a high school hands-on course by simplifying the experimental steps and equipment. Our research methodology was action research. We verified the DSSC course step by step. First, 10 members of a high school science study club helped to revise the course over a school semester. A questionnaire survey revealed that all students agreed that the course increased their understanding of DSSCs and solar cells. Second, 35 students were enrolled in a 10th-grade elective energy course to study the revised DSSC topics for 3 weeks. A five-point Likert scale was used to collect students’ feedback, and students reported looking forward to making their own high-performance DSSC modules (4.60) and stated that being able to make their own solar cell was a great accomplishment (4.49). Third, the course was implemented at a junior high school science camp, and the 37 participating students were all able to complete the hands-on experiment. In the questionnaire survey, the students expressed that they enjoyed learning about scientific principles through a hands-on approach (4.59). Fourth, most of the 12 schoolteachers who voluntarily participated in the DSSC workshop agreed that integrating DSSC activity into school courses would be conducive to multidisciplinary learning. This course could facilitate participants’ self-evaluations in science knowledge, experimental skills, learning motivations, and positive attitudes toward sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Engineering Education for a Sustainable Energy Future)
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Article
Bridging Education and Engineering Students through a Wind Energy-Focused Community Engagement Project
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 9334; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169334 - 19 Aug 2021
Viewed by 346
Abstract
Regional growth in offshore wind energy development, changes to the state’s K-12 science standards, and a desire to deepen undergraduate student learning coalesced to inspire an interdisciplinary community engagement project bridging university courses in engineering and education. The project consists of three main [...] Read more.
Regional growth in offshore wind energy development, changes to the state’s K-12 science standards, and a desire to deepen undergraduate student learning coalesced to inspire an interdisciplinary community engagement project bridging university courses in engineering and education. The project consists of three main activities: a professional development event for local fourth grade teachers, five classroom lessons designed and taught by undergraduate engineering and education majors, and a final celebration event, all focused around the topics of wind energy and engineering design. This spring, the project was carried out for the third consecutive year, though each year’s implementation has been unique due to the timing of the onset of COVID-19. Analysis of responses from the Teaching Engineering Self-Efficacy Scale and an end-of-semester course survey demonstrate growth in student learning and transferrable skills from participating in the semester-long project. Additionally, exploration of students’ narrative work provides a richness to further understanding their growth and challenges they confronted. This interdisciplinary community engagement project will continue into future years, with improvements informed by the findings of this work, most notably with the hope of returning to a fully in-person delivery of lessons to fourth-graders. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Engineering Education for a Sustainable Energy Future)
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Article
Is It All about Efficiency? Exploring Students’ Conceptualizations of Sustainability in an Introductory Energy Course
Sustainability 2021, 13(13), 7188; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13137188 - 26 Jun 2021
Viewed by 569
Abstract
Engineers are increasingly called on to develop sustainable solutions to complex problems. Within engineering, however, economic and environmental aspects of sustainability are often prioritized over social ones. This paper describes how efficiency and sustainability were conceptualized and interrelated by students in a newly [...] Read more.
Engineers are increasingly called on to develop sustainable solutions to complex problems. Within engineering, however, economic and environmental aspects of sustainability are often prioritized over social ones. This paper describes how efficiency and sustainability were conceptualized and interrelated by students in a newly developed second-year undergraduate engineering course, An Integrated Approach to Energy. This course took a sociotechnical approach and emphasized modern energy concepts (e.g., renewable energy), current issues (e.g., climate change), and local and personal contexts (e.g., connecting to students’ lived experiences). Analyses of student work and semi-structured interview data were used to explore how students conceptualized sustainability and efficiency. We found that in this cohort (n = 17) students often approached sustainability through a lens of efficiency, believing that if economic and environmental resources were prioritized and optimized, sustainability would be achieved. By exploring sustainability and efficiency together, we examined how dominant discourses that privilege technical over social aspects in engineering can be replicated within an energy context. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Engineering Education for a Sustainable Energy Future)
Article
Wind Resource and Wind Power Generation Assessment for Education in Engineering
Sustainability 2021, 13(5), 2444; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052444 - 24 Feb 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 666
Abstract
This paper proposes a practical approach to assess wind energy resource and calculate annual energy production for use on university courses in engineering. To this end, two practical exercises were designed in the open-source software GNU Octave (compatible with MATLAB) using both synthetic [...] Read more.
This paper proposes a practical approach to assess wind energy resource and calculate annual energy production for use on university courses in engineering. To this end, two practical exercises were designed in the open-source software GNU Octave (compatible with MATLAB) using both synthetic and field data. The script used to generate the synthetic data as well as those created to develop the practical exercises are included for the benefit of other educational bodies. With the first exercise the students learn how to characterize the wind resource at the wind turbine hub height and adjust it to the Weibull distribution. Two examples are included in this exercise: one with an appropriate fit and another where the Weibull distribution does not fit properly to the generated data. Furthermore, in this exercise, field data (gathered with a LiDAR remote sensing device) is also used to calculate shear exponents for a proper characterisation of the wind profile. The second exercise consists of the calculation of the annual energy production of a wind power plant, where the students can assess the influence of different factors (wind speed, rotor diameter, rated power, etc.) in the project. The exercises proposed can easily be implemented through either in-class or online teaching modes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Engineering Education for a Sustainable Energy Future)
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Article
Improving Student Learning of Energy Systems through Computational Tool Development Process in Engineering Courses
Sustainability 2021, 13(2), 884; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13020884 - 17 Jan 2021
Viewed by 514
Abstract
Advancements in computer and mobile technologies have driven transformations of classroom activities in engineering education. This evolution provides instructors more opportunities to introduce computational tools that can be effectively used and promoted in engineering education to advance students’ learning process when the tools [...] Read more.
Advancements in computer and mobile technologies have driven transformations of classroom activities in engineering education. This evolution provides instructors more opportunities to introduce computational tools that can be effectively used and promoted in engineering education to advance students’ learning process when the tools are appropriately utilized in the classroom activities. This paper presents a methodology to improve student learning of energy systems through a class assignment implementing a self-developed computational tool using Microsoft Excel and utilizing the tool to enhance their learning experience. The proposed method, a student-centered learning approach, was applied in a technical elective course called “Power Generation Systems” within a mechanical engineering curriculum. In the course, students were guided to develop a computational tool by themselves based on their learning of the fundamental principles and governing equations of a thermodynamics cycle. The self-developed computational tool allows the students to focus on more design-oriented problems, instead of the calculation process. Using the self-developed tool, students can have an enhanced understanding of the energy system performance in varying design and operational conditions and can perform the parametric analysis and visualization of essential parameters. Feedback from the students and class instructors proves that the self-development and use of the tool can significantly improve the students’ learning experience in the implemented course, make the course more dynamic, and motivate the students to learn the material more iteratively. In addition, students feel confident using computational tools to perform analysis, and are willing to develop more tools for other energy-related engineering applications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Engineering Education for a Sustainable Energy Future)
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Article
An Integrated Approach to Energy Education in Engineering
Sustainability 2020, 12(21), 9145; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12219145 - 03 Nov 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 870
Abstract
What do engineering students in 2020 need to know about energy to be successful in the workplace and contribute to addressing society’s issues related to energy? Beginning with this question, we have designed a new course for second-year engineering students. Drawing on the [...] Read more.
What do engineering students in 2020 need to know about energy to be successful in the workplace and contribute to addressing society’s issues related to energy? Beginning with this question, we have designed a new course for second-year engineering students. Drawing on the interdisciplinary backgrounds of our diverse team of engineering instructors, we aimed to provide an introduction to energy for all engineering students that challenged the dominant discourse in engineering by valuing students’ lived experiences and bringing in examples situated in different cultural contexts. An Integrated Approach to Energy was offered for the first time in Spring 2020 for 18 students. In this paper, we describe the design of the course including learning objectives, content, and pedagogical approach. We assessed students’ learning using exams and the impact of the overall course using interviews. Students demonstrated achievement of the learning objectives in technical areas. In addition, interviews revealed that they learned about environmental, economic, and social aspects of engineering practice. We intend for this course to serve as a model of engineering as a sociotechnical endeavor by challenging students with scenarios that are technically demanding and require critical thinking about contextual implications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Engineering Education for a Sustainable Energy Future)
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Communication
A Liberal Undergraduate Education for Engineers
Sustainability 2020, 12(16), 6506; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166506 - 12 Aug 2020
Viewed by 693
Abstract
The complex dimensions of many issues faced by engineers require that they understand social and humanistic matters along with the technical, and communicate effectively and synergistically with persons having all sorts of backgrounds. This is especially true for matters of sustainability and energy [...] Read more.
The complex dimensions of many issues faced by engineers require that they understand social and humanistic matters along with the technical, and communicate effectively and synergistically with persons having all sorts of backgrounds. This is especially true for matters of sustainability and energy supply. Engineering should therefore be built upon the foundation of a broad and liberal undergraduate education, with the professional degree being moved to the graduate level, as is the case for the other major professions. Another benefit of moving the degree level can be to delay the point of commitment to an engineering major from before college to the latter part of the undergraduate program, a move which can bring in new enrollees and increase diversity. The move of the professional engineering degree to the graduate level has already happened for a number of European countries as an outgrowth of the Bologna Process. There are incremental changes that can be made so that this transition can be undertaken by evolution as opposed to revolution. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Engineering Education for a Sustainable Energy Future)

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Case Report
An Introductory Energy Course to Promote Broad Energy Education for Undergraduate Engineering Students
Sustainability 2021, 13(17), 9693; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13179693 - 29 Aug 2021
Viewed by 534
Abstract
Engineering graduates must be prepared to support our world’s need for a clean and sustainable energy future. Complex problems related to energy and sustainability require engineers to consider the broad spectrum of interrelated consequences including human and environmental health, sociopolitical, and economic factors. [...] Read more.
Engineering graduates must be prepared to support our world’s need for a clean and sustainable energy future. Complex problems related to energy and sustainability require engineers to consider the broad spectrum of interrelated consequences including human and environmental health, sociopolitical, and economic factors. Teaching engineering students about energy within a societal context, simultaneous with developing technical knowledge and skills, will better prepare them to solve real-world problems. Yet few energy courses that approach energy topics from a human-centered perspective exist within engineering programs. Engineering students enrolled in energy programs often take such courses as supplemental to their course of study. This paper presents an engineering course that approaches energy education from a socio-technical perspective, emphasizing the complex interactions of energy technologies with sustainability dimensions. Course content and learning activities are structured around learning outcomes that require students to gain technical knowledge as well as an understanding of broader energy-related impacts. The course attracts students from a variety of majors and grade levels. A mixed quantitative/qualitative assessment conducted from 2019–2021 indicates successful achievement of course learning outcomes. Students demonstrated significant gains in technical content knowledge as well as the ability to critically address complex sociotechnical issues related to current and future energy systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Engineering Education for a Sustainable Energy Future)
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