Interdisciplinary, real-world, client-based term projects in an introductory environmental engineering and science course

Andrew Ross Pfluger, Matthew P. Baideme, Katie E. Matthew, Stephen A. Lewandowski, Jeffrey Allan Starke, Michael A. Butkus

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Many universities have real environmental problems in areas such as energy efficiency, water efficiency, and solid waste management, but do not always have the time or resources to examine the problems in depth. The United States Military Academy (USMA) employs an introductory environmental engineering and science course required for environmental engineering and environmental science majors, which is taken during the first semester of their junior year. Additionally, USMA requires that all non-engineering majors take a three-course engineering sequence, and a slightly modified version of the introductory course is taught each year to approximately 170 such students in the first semester of their junior year. Within the context of the course, we maintain a semester-long term project that examines real environmental problems, which our student teams (3-4 students of varying academic majors) observe or clients (such as the Department of Public Works or our student government) identify. Preparation for the project requires student teams to develop a hypothesis and a basic sampling and evaluation protocol. Students then use the protocol to conduct sampling in the local community and analyze results in light of their hypothesis. Students are required to submit a final written report. This term project model also encourages interdisciplinary collaboration with non-STEM disciplines, such as the Marketing course in USMA?s Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership. This cross-cutting educational method can create more holistic solutions to the identified problems and enhance student learning. To date, assessment of students who participated in the real-world, client-based project versus a general environmental project indicated an improvement in several important areas: valuation of results, motivation and understanding, and confidence in problem solving skills. This work presents the methods our program developed to incorporate the scientific method, hypothesis development, and sampling methodologies to help solve these relevant real-world problems. The methods required to implement this educational experience in environmental engineering programs to meet ABET accreditation requirements are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes
Event120th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Atlanta, GA, United States
Duration: 23 Jun 201326 Jun 2013


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