Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Engineering Education

Integration of Education for Sustainable Development in the Mechanical Engineering Curriculum

Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Engineering Education

Integration of Education for Sustainable Development in the Mechanical Engineering Curriculum

Article excerpt


The mission of a mechanical engineer is to create and operate products and systems that improve safety and quality of life for a growing population. This mission should be achieved using a minimum of resources to ensure we do not limit the possibilities for coming generations to continue to develop their quality of life and safety. The challenges in the next decades are huge; new technologies, systems and solutions for energy supply and transportations are needed, the growing global population requires more efficient use of materials, land and other resources. Mechanical engineers need to take active and leading roles in solving these challenges associated with the transformation to a sustainable society.

Stakeholders and students are expecting engineering programs to prepare the students for the challenges described above and the education must continuously be developed to meet these needs, see, eg. Hannig et al (2012). In a report from the National Evaluation of Engineering Programs, the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (2006) argued "training in engineering and natural sciences is generally sufficient, but social, economic and environmental applications of engineering are poorly provided for".

These needs are thus being formalised into requirements that are included in national and international requirements on engineering degrees. Specifically within the CDIO context, the CDIO syllabus 2.0 clarifies the position of sustainability in the syllabus, bringing forward topics such as design for sustainability, for sustainable implementation and for sustainable operations (Crawley et al, 2011). Moreover, the EUR-ACE standards (ENAEE, 2008) require that a 2nd cycle engineering degree graduate "demonstrates awareness of the health, safety and legal issues and responsibilities of engineering practice, the impact of engineering solutions in a societal and environmental context, and commit to professional ethics, responsibilities and norms of engineering practice". As yet another example, the Swedish national degree requirements for the "Civilingenjor" degree (Master of Science in Engineering) state since 2007 that (Ministry of Education and Research, 2006):

To be awarded the Civilingenjor degree the student should be able to demonstrate:

* Ability to design and develop products, processes and systems with consideration of human prerequisites and needs and the society's goals for economically, socially and ecologically sustainable development.

* Ability to formulate judgements considering relevant scientific, societal and ethical aspects, and demonstrate an awareness of ethical aspects on research and development work.

* Insight into the possibilities and limitations of technology, its role in society and the responsibility of humans for its use, including social, economic as well as environmental and occupational health aspects.

The challenge for educational developers is then to design the education in such a way that the requirements are fulfilled.

Earlier work on the topic of addressing sustainability in CDIO programs starts with Jeswiet et al (2005) who compiled a list of sustainability topics that should be included in a CDIO program, including lifecycle assessment, design for environment and remanufacturing. Knutson Wedel et al (2008) discussed the implementation process of engineering education for sustainable development into CDIO programs and present and analyse the relation between the concept of sustainable development and the CDIO approach and, in particular, the CDIO syllabus. Silja et al (2011) pointed out that several CDIO standards are very amendable to sustainability education, including Standard Five (Design-build Experiences) and Standard Eight (Active and Experiential Learning). In addition, several authors have presented innovative sustainability project course models that can be included in a CDIO curriculum, for example aiming to develop water sanitation solutions (Ng Huiting et al, 2009) or green design competitions (Hussman et al, 2010). …

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