Authors: Professor Emanuela Tilley, (UCL); Associate Professor Kate Roach (UCL); Associate Professor Fiona Truscott (UCL). 

Topic: Sustainability must-haves in engineering project briefs. 

Type: Guidance. 

Relevant disciplines: Any. 

Keywords: PBL; Assessment; Project brief; Learning outcomes; Pedagogy; Communication; Future generations; Decision-making; Design; Ethics; Sustainability; AHEP; Higher education.
 
Sustainability competency: Integrated problem-solving; Collaboration.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: All. 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Adapt learning outcomes; Active pedagogies and mindsets; More real-world complexity; Cross-disciplinarity; Authentic assessment.

 

Supporting resources: 

 

Premise: 

Projects, and thus project-based learning, offer valuable opportunities for integrating sustainability education into engineering curricula by promoting active, experiential learning through critical and creative thinking within problem-solving endeavours and addressing complex real-world challenges. Engaging in projects can have a lasting impact on students’ understanding and retention of knowledge. By working on projects related to sustainability, students are likely to internalise key concepts and develop a commitment to incorporating sustainable practices into their future engineering endeavours. 

 

Building a brief:

Project briefs are a powerful tool for integrating sustainability into engineering education through project-based learning. They set the tone, define the scope, and provide the parameters for students to consider sustainability in their engineering projects, ensuring that future engineers develop the knowledge, skills, and mindset needed to address the complex challenges of sustainability. 

To ensure sustainability has a central and/or clear role within an engineering project, consider the following as you develop the brief: 

1. Sustainability as part of goals, objectives, and requirements. By explicitly including sustainability objectives in the project brief, educators communicate the importance of considering environmental, social, and economic factors in the engineering design and implementation process. This sets the stage for students to integrate sustainability principles into their project work. 

 

2. Context: Briefs should always include the context of the project so that students understand the importance of place and people to an engineered solution. Below are aspects of the context to consider and provide:

 

3. Stakeholders: Sustainability is intertwined with the interests and needs of various stakeholders. Project briefs can include considerations for stakeholder engagement, prompting students to identify and address the concerns of different groups affected by the project. This reinforces the importance of community involvement and social responsibility in engineering projects. Below are aspects of the stakeholders to consider and provide: 

 

4. Ethical decision-making: Including ethical considerations related to sustainability in the project brief guides students in making ethical decisions throughout the project lifecycle. The Ethics Toolkit can provide guidance in how to embed ethical considerations such as: 

 

5. Knowns and unknowns: Considering both knowns and unknowns is essential for defining the project scope. Knowing what is already understood and what remains uncertain allows students to set realistic and achievable project goals. Below are aspects of considering the knowns and unknowns aspects of a project brief to consider and provide:

 

6. Engineering design process and skills development: The Project Brief should support how the educator wants to guide students through the engineering design cycle, equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and mindset needed for successful problem-solving. Below are aspects of the engineering design process and skills development to consider and provide: 

a. Research – investigate,  

b. Creative thinking – divergent and convergent thinking in different parts of the process of engineering design,

c. Critical thinking – innovation model analysis or other critical thinking tools,

d. Decision making – steps taken to move the project forward, justifying the decision making via evidence,

e. Communication, collaboration, negotiation, presentation,  

f. Anticipatory thinking – responsible innovation model AREA, asking in the concept stages (which ideas could go wrong because of a double use, or perhaps thinking of what could go wrong?),

g. Systems thinking.  

 

7. Solution and impact: Students will need to demonstrate that they have met the brief and can demonstrate that they understand the impact of their chosen solution. Here it would need to be clear what the students need to produce and how long it is expected to take them. Other considerations when designing the project brief to include are: 

 

 

Important considerations for embedding sustainability into projects: 

1. Competences or content? 

 

 2. Was any content added or adapted? 

– What form of content, seminars, readings, lectures, tutorials, student activity 

 

3. Competencies  

UNESCO has identified eight competencies that encompass the behaviours, attitudes, values and knowledge which facilitate safeguarding the future. These together with the SDGs provide a way of identifying activities and learning that can be embedded in different disciplinary curricula and courses.  For more information on assessing competences, see this guidance article.  

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 
 
 
To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

Authors: Diana Adela Martin (University College London), Suleman Audu and Jeremy Mantingh (Engineers Without Borders The Netherlands). 

Topic: Circular business models. 

Tool type: Teaching. 

Relevant disciplines: Chemical; Biochemical; Manufacturing. 

Keywords: Circular business models; Teaching or embedding sustainability; Plastic waste; Plastic pollution; Recycling or recycled materials; Responsible consumption; Teamwork; Interdisciplinary; AHEP; Higher education. 
 
Sustainability competency: Integrated problem-solving; Collaboration; Systems thinking.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities); SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production); SDG 13 (Climate action); SDG 14 (Life below water). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity, Active pedagogies and mindset development, Authentic assessment, Cross-disciplinarity.

Educational level: Intermediate. 

 

Learning and teaching notes:   

This case study is focused on the role of engineers to address the problem of plastic waste in the context of sustainable operations and circular business solutions. It involves a team of engineers developing a start-up aiming to tackle plastic waste by converting it into infrastructure components (such as plastic bricks). As plastic waste is a global problem, the case can be customised by instructors when specifying the region in which it is set. The case incorporates several components, including stakeholder mapping, empirical surveys, risk assessment and policy-making. This case study is particularly suitable for interdisciplinary teamwork, with students from different disciplines bringing their specialised knowledge.  

The case study asks students to research the data on how much plastic is produced and policies for the disposal of plastic, identify the regions most affected by plastic waste, develop a business plan for a circular business focused on transforming plastic waste into bricks and understand the risks of plastic production and waste as well as the risks of a business working with plastic waste. In this process, students gain an awareness of the societal context of plastic waste and the varying risks that different demographic categories are exposed to, as well as the role of engineers in contributing to the development of technologies for circular businesses. Students also get to apply their disciplinary knowledge to propose technical solutions to the problem of plastic waste. 

The case is presented in parts. Part one addresses the broader context of plastic waste and could be used in isolation, but parts two and three further develop and add complexity to the engineering-specific elements of the topic.  

 

Learners have the opportunity to:  

Teachers have the opportunity to include teaching content purporting to: 

 

Recommended pre-reading: 

Part one:

Part two:

 

Part one: 

Plastic pollution is a major challenge. It is predicted that if current trends continue, by 2050 there will be 26 billion metric tons of plastic waste, and almost half of this is expected to be dumped in landfills and the environment (Guglielmi, 2017). As plastic waste grows at an increased speed, it kills millions of animals each year, contaminates fresh water sources and affects human health. Across the world, geographical regions are affected differently by plastic waste. In fact, developing countries are more affected by plastic waste than developed nations. Existing reports trace a link between poverty and plastic waste, making it a development problem. Africa, Asia and South America see immense quantities of plastic generated elsewhere being dumped on their territory.  At the moment, there are several policies in place targeting the production and disposal of plastic. Several of the policies active in developed regions such as the EU do not allow the disposal of plastic waste inside their own territorial boundaries, but allow it on outside territories.  

 

Optional STOP for activities and discussion 

 

Part two: 

Impressed by the magnitude of the problem of plastic waste faced today, together with a group of friends you met while studying engineering at the Technological University of the Future, you want to set up a green circular business. Circular business models aim to use and reuse materials for as long as possible, all while minimising waste. Your concern is to develop a sustainable technological solution to the problem of plastic waste. The vision for a circular economy for plastic rests on six key points (Ellen McArthur Foundation, n.d.): 

  1. Elimination of problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation, and new delivery models is a priority 
  2. Reuse models are applied where relevant, reducing the need for single-use packaging 
  3. All plastic packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable 
  4. All plastic packaging is reused, recycled, or composted in practice 
  5. The use of plastic is fully decoupled from the consumption of finite resources 
  6. All plastic packaging is free of hazardous chemicals, and the health, safety, and rights of all people involved are respected 

 

Optional STOP for group activities and discussion 

 

Part three: 

The start-up SuperRecycling aims to develop infrastructure solutions by converting plastic waste into bricks. Your team of engineers is tasked to develop a risk assessment for the operations of the factory in which this process will take place. The start-up is set in a developing country of your choice that is greatly affected by plastic waste. 

 

Optional STOP for group activities and discussion 

 

Acknowledgement: The authors want to acknowledge the work of Engineers Without Borders Netherlands and its partners to tackle the problem of plastic waste. The case is based on the Challenge Based Learning exploratory course Decision Under Risk and Uncertainty designed by Diana Adela Martin at TU Eindhoven, where students got to work on a real-life project about the conversion of plastic waste into bricks to build a washroom facility in a school in Ghana, based on the activity of Engineers Without Borders Netherlands. The project was spearheaded by Suleman Audu and Jeremy Mantingh. 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 

To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

Authors: Emma Crichton CEng MICE and Dr Jonathan Truslove MEng PhD (Engineers Without Borders UK). 

Topic: How to talk about sustainability in engineering education. 

Tool type: Guidance. 

Relevant disciplines: Any. 

Keywords: Advocacy; Collaboration; Global responsibility; Sustainability; Systems change; Climate change; AHEP; Higher education; Pedagogy. 
 
Sustainability competency: Self-awareness; Strategic; Critical thinking.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities); SDG 13 (Climate action). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Active pedagogies and mindset development.

Who should read this article? This article should be read by educators at all levels of higher education looking to embed and integrate sustainability into curriculum design. It’s especially useful in helping educators, heads of departments and deans to engage in a constructive or uncomfortable conversation if you don’t see yourself as a sustainability expert.  

 

Premise: 

To not have conversations because they make you uncomfortable is the definition of privilege. Your comfort is not at the centre of this discussion. That’s not how it works. We have to be able to choose courage over comfort, we have to be able to say, ‘Look, I don’t know if I’m going to nail this but I’m going to try because I know what I’m sure as hell not going to do is stay quiet.’” Brene Brown  

 

Some of the best conversations you can have in life are not comfortable to initiate: 

Think about a time you’ve participated in a meaningful conversation. These are not easy conversations, but they can also be the ones we look back to as very powerful, even if they took courage to initiate. And sometimes in a conversation, especially a constructive conversation, people disagree. People debate. People have different perspectives. And that’s the beauty of conversation and the beautiful rich diversity of people. It would be so boring if we all had the same life experiences, expertise and thoughts. If we only wanted to hear our own perspective, you can do that in a voice note to yourself, in your journal or by talking to the mirror.  

There can also be different conversations depending on the values of those having the conversation. What they see as important, scary or what environment they live in helps form their core understanding. But despite our differences, humans are hard-wired for connection, to listen and talk with others. We discuss ideas in order to find common ground, and/or to learn about an experience we didn’t have ourselves. Difficult, constructive conversations build relationships, while avoiding them leads to a less deep connection.  

 

Why talk about sustainability? 

Educators, you have permission to start and facilitate a conversation about something you don’t know much about or are not an expert in. Just be honest about what you know and be driven to learn more.    

This relates to conversations around the topic of sustainability. When we talk about how we can live within our planetary limits, whilst meeting the needs of all people, questions about justice, inequality and fairness often crop up. We don’t have one right answer here, we don’t have a magic fix or one person to blame. No one is an expert here. Sure, some know more about the science, others more about people’s lived experiences and others can feel they don’t know enough. But we all have a right to participate in conversations about our collective humanity. For example, conversations you could have with students about sustainability could cover: 

After all, sustainability is about imagining our future: One where we have less impact on our safe climate and biodiversity and less inequality. But we may see that future world differently. We may worry about the impact any change might have on our lives and the things we value most. Some may struggle with the idea of repurposing golf courses to address our housing crisis, others may struggle with the idea of policies stopping people from flying frequently (but they might be okay with this being imposed on those with private jets). Others may despair at the slow levels of change, where we don’t move from our default trajectory and risk climate breakdown.  

On our current trajectory, we are looking at living in a world where our climate exceeds 1.5 degrees of warming, where there is mass migration, sea level rise, etc. This world may be worse, where more people suffer. But would you change how we engineer to make it better or play a role in another way to shift our trajectory? 

 

How to initiate conversations about sustainability in engineering education: 

To not have these important conversations means we don’t see any role for ourselves or the organisations we work for in creating change – and that’s not true, since sustainability requires systemic change to how we engineer AND to how we educate. For example, we asked hundreds of engineering educators and educationalists what they hope to see as the future of engineering education. Their responses are visualised below: 

Discussing your opinions about these responses could be one way to start a conversation with a colleague. 

It is also really important to engage in regular conversations about sustainability with students as a feature of their university education. Be a role model for how to participate in constructive conversations respectfully. Help them practise how to hold and present themselves in these spaces.  

So, with this in mind, what can you do?  

 
Initiate the conversation. Prepare to do so. Here are some tips and tricks.  

Be humble! Learning from others is key. Degrees can be designed so that students can frequently hear and learn about different perspectives and develop the ability to speak with economists, social scientists, scientists, humanities experts, ecologists, and those with expertise gained through lived experience. Be willing to learn from others and acknowledge that it’s okay they don’t have all the answers either. In our experience, students usually respect this attitude of humility.  

It can be helpful to work with those with experience. Recognise who is leading changes and creating ways for educators to feel safe in leading and making change. Sometimes all it takes is the offer of a coffee with a colleague to form a connection and get a shared understanding of how to move forward. 

Seek (and give) advice and share your experience. Share resources, barriers, insights and position initiatives to support in an organised and collaborative way.  

Work in partnership with students. Students also have a critical role to play in this shift, not just because they are increasingly demanding to see more sustainability in the curriculum. For many emerging students, sustainability is the topic of their lifetime. Listen to the perspectives of international students, who can bring more diverse perspectives on global responsibility.  

 

Sustainability is more than a word or concept, it is actually a culture, and if we aim to see it mirrored in the near future, what better way exists than that of planting it in the young hearts of today knowing they are the leaders of the tomorrow we are not guaranteed of? It is possible.” 2021 South African university student (after participating in the Engineering for People Design Challenge during their degree course) 

 

Useful resources to get talking: 

There are some excellent resources out there that can help us get started framing and having conversations about sustainability with others: 

1. The Talk Climate Change campaign tracks climate discussions to share messages and inspire others around the world. It provides advice, conversation starters and allows you to add your discussions with family, friends, and communities about sustainability to their interactive map and explore conversations submitted by others. 

2. Listen to podcasts such as the Liberating Sustainability podcast by Students Organising for Sustainability UK (SOSUK) who bring together leaders from student liberation movements and academia to deconstruct the exclusivity of sustainability activism and education, or An Idiot’s Guide to Saving the World which dives into each of the Sustainable Development Goals and focuses in on ‘who is affected?’, ‘What are solutions on a global scale?’, and ‘what can I as an individual do?’. 

3. Watch the presentation on Imagining 2050 from James Norman, a current educator (who will be 72 years old in 2050) and Cleo Parker, an engineering student (who will be 49 in 2050) during the Institution of Structural Engineers Annual Academics Conference 2022. You can also read the main learning points from the conference in this blog post 

4. The World Café methodology is an example of creating a space for collaborative dialogue around questions that matter and sharing insights and lessons learned. You can see an example of this by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) who run Collaboration Cafes on Climate Resilience, here. 

5. Watch the TED talks playlists on sustainability covering key questions and visionary ideas on the question of our generation.  

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

 

To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

Author: Cigdem Sengul, Ph.D. FHEA (Computer Science, Brunel University). 

Topic: Embedding SDGs into undergraduate computing projects using problem-based learning and teamwork. 

Tool type: Guidance. 

Relevant disciplines: Computing; Computer science; Information technology; Software engineering.  

Keywords: Sustainable Development Goals; Problem-based learning; Teamwork; Design thinking; Sustainability; AHEP; Pedagogy; Higher education; Communication; Course design; Assessment; STEM; Curriculum design. 
 
Sustainability competency: Collaboration; Integrated problem-solving.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: All 17; see specific examples below for SDG 2 (Zero Hunger); SDG 13 (Climate Action). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Adapt and repurpose learning outcomes; Active pedagogies and mindset development; Authentic assessment.

Who is this article for? This article should be read by educators at all levels in Higher Education who wish to embed sustainable development goals into computing projects. 

Supporting resources 

 

Premise:  

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is defined by UNESCO (2021) as:  “the process of equipping students with the knowledge and understanding, skills and attributes needed to work and live in a way that safeguards environmental, social and economic wellbeing, in the present and for future generations.” All disciplines have something to offer ESD, and all can contribute to a sustainable future. This guide presents how to embed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into undergraduate computing projects, using problem-based learning and teamwork as the main pedagogical tools (Mishra & Mishra, 2020).  

 

Embedding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into computing group projects: 

Typically, the aim of the undergraduate Computing Group Project is to: 

This type of project provides students with an opportunity to integrate various skills, including design, software development, project management, and effective communication.  

 

In this project setting, the students can be asked to select a project theme based on the SDGs. The module team then can support student learning in three key ways: 

1. Lectures, labs, and regular formative assessments can build on lab activities to walk the project groups through a sustainability journey that starts from a project pitch, continues with design, implementation, and project progress reporting, and ends with delivering a final demo.

2. Blending large classroom teaching with small group teaching, where each group is assigned a tutor, to ensure timely support and feedback on formative assessments.

3. A summative assessment based on a well-structured project portfolio template, guiding students to present and reflect on their individual contribution to the group effort. This portfolio may form the only graded element of their work, giving the students the opportunity to learn from their mistakes in formative assessments and present their best work at the end of the module.  

 

Mapping the learning outcomes to the eight UNESCO key competencies for sustainability (Advance HE, 2021), the students will have the opportunity to experience the following: 

 

More specifically, sustainable development can be embedded following a lecture-lab-formative assessment-summative assessment path: 

1. Introduction lecture: Introduce the SDGs and give real-life examples of software that contribute to SDGs (examples include: for SDG 2 – Zero Hunger, the World Food Programme’s Hunger Map; SDG 13 – Climate Action, Climate Mind ). The students then can be instructed to do their own research on SDGs. 

2. Apply design thinking to project ideation: In a lecture, students are introduced to design thinking and the double-diamond of design to use a diverge-converge strategy to first “design the right thing” and second “design things right.” In a practical session, with teaching team support, the students can meet their groups for a brainstorming activity. It is essential to inform students about setting ground rules for discussion, ensuring all voices are heard. Encourage students to apply design thinking to decide which SDG-based problem they would like to work on to develop a software solution. Here, giving students an example of this process based on a selected SDG will be useful. 

3. Formative assessment – project pitch deliverable: The next step is to channel students’ output of the design thinking practical to a formative assessment. Students can mould their discussion into a project pitch for their tutors. Their presentation should explain how their project works towards one or more of the 17 SDGs. 

4. Summative assessment – a dedicated section in project portfolio: Finally, dedicating a section in a project portfolio template on ideation ensures students reflect further on the SDGs. In the portfolio, students can be asked to reflect on how individual ideas were discussed and feedback from different group members was captured. They should also reflect on how they ensured the chosen problem fits one or more SDGs, describe the selection process of the final software solution, and what alternative solutions for the chosen SDG they have discussed, elaborating on the reasons for the final choice. 

 

Conclusion: 

Computing projects provide an excellent opportunity to align teaching, learning, and assessment activities to meet key Sustainable Development competencies and learning outcomes. The projects can provide transformational experiences for students to hear alternative viewpoints, reflect on experiences, and address real-world challenges. 

 

References: 

Advance HE. (2021) Education for sustainable development guidance. (Accessed: 02 January 2024). 

Lewrick, M., Link, P., Leifer, L.J. & Langensand, N. (2018). The design thinking playbook: mindful digital transformation of teams, products, services, businesses, and ecosystems. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Hoboken. 

Mishra, D. and Mishra, A. (2020) ‘Sustainability Inclusion in Informatics Curriculum Development’, Sustainability, 12(14), p. 5769.  

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.  

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 

 
To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

Author: Onyekachi Nwafor (CEO, KatexPower). 

Topic: Harmonising economic prosperity with environmental responsibility. 

Tool type: Knowledge. 

Relevant disciplines: Any.  

Keywords: Environmental responsibility; Pedagogy; Economic growth; Ethical awareness, Interdisciplinary; Collaboration; AHEP; Sustainability; Environment; Biodiversity; Local community; Climate change; Higher education. 
 
Sustainability competency: Integrated problem-solving; Strategic; Self-awareness; Normative.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth); SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities); SDG 13 (Climate action). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity; Active pedagogies and mindset development.

Who is this article for? This article should be read by educators at all levels in higher education who wish to consider how to navigate tradeoffs between economic and environmental sustainability as they apply to engineering. Engaging with this topic will also help to prepare students with the soft skill sets that employers are looking for. 

 

Premise:  

In the face of the ever-growing need for economic progress and the escalating environmental crises, the engineering profession finds itself at a crossroads. Striking a delicate balance between economic growth and environmental sustainability is no longer an option but an imperative. This article delves into the pivotal role of engineering educators in shaping the mindset of future engineers, offering an expanded educational framework that fosters a generation capable of harmonising economic prosperity with environmental responsibility. 

  

The uneasy truce:  

Developing nations, with burgeoning populations and aspirations for improved living standards, grapple with the paradox of rapid economic expansion at the expense of environmental degradation. This necessitates a shift in focus for engineering educators, who bear the responsibility of cultivating engineers with a foresighted perspective. Rather than demonising economic growth, the goal is to instill a nuanced understanding of its interdependence with environmental well-being. For example, in developing countries like Brazil, rapid economic expansion driven by industries such as agriculture and logging has resulted in extensive deforestation of the Amazon region. This deforestation not only leads to the loss of valuable biodiversity and ecosystem services but also contributes to climate change through the release of carbon dioxide. Similarly, in industrialised nations, the pursuit of economic growth has often led to the pollution of air, water, and soil, causing adverse health effects for both humans and wildlife. 

 

Equipping our future stewards: 

To navigate this delicate landscape, educators must move beyond traditional technical expertise, fostering a holistic approach that integrates ethical awareness, interdisciplinary collaboration, localised solutions, and a commitment to lifelong learning. 

1. Ethical awareness: One potential counterargument to the expanded educational framework may be that the focus of engineering education should remain solely on technical expertise, with the assumption that ethical considerations and interdisciplinary collaboration can be addressed later in a professional context. However, research has shown that integrating ethical awareness and interdisciplinary collaboration early in engineering education not only enhances problem-solving skills but also cultivates a sense of responsibility and long-term thinking among future engineers. 

2. Holistic thinking: Research has shown that interdisciplinary collaboration between engineering and social science disciplines can lead to more effective and sustainable solutions. For instance, a study conducted by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) found that by involving sociologists and anthropologists in the design and implementation of water infrastructure projects in rural communities, engineers were able to address cultural preferences and local knowledge, resulting in higher acceptance and long-term maintenance of the infrastructure. Similarly, a case study of a renewable energy project in Germany demonstrated how taking into account the geographic nuances of the region, such as wind patterns and solar radiation, led to more efficient and cost-effective energy solutions. Presently, Germany boasts the world’s fourth-largest installed solar capacity and ranks amongst the top wind energy producers.  

3. Localised solutions: Students must be required to consider the social, cultural, and geographic nuances of each project. This means moving away from one-size-fits-all approaches and towards an emphasis on the importance of context-specific solutions. This ensures that interventions are not only technologically sound but also culturally appropriate and responsive to local needs, fostering sustainability at both the project and community levels. 

4. Lifelong learning: Empower students with the skills to stay abreast of emerging technologies, ethical frameworks, and policy landscapes. Recognise that the landscape of sustainability is dynamic and ever evolving. Foster a culture of continuous learning and adaptability to ensure that graduates remain true stewards of a sustainable future, equipped to navigate evolving challenges throughout their careers. 

 

A compass for progress:  

By integrating these principles into engineering curricula, educators can provide students with a moral and intellectual compass—an ethical framework guiding decisions toward a future where economic progress and environmental responsibility coexist harmoniously. Achieving this paradigm shift will require collaboration, innovation, and a willingness to challenge the status quo. However, the rewards are immeasurable: a generation of engineers empowered to build a world where prosperity thrives alongside a healthy planet—a testament to the true potential of the engineering profession. 

Engineering teachers can raise a generation of engineers who can balance economic growth with environmental responsibility by embracing a broader educational framework that includes ethical awareness, cross-disciplinary collaboration, localised solutions, and a commitment to lifelong learning. Through the adoption of these principles, engineering curricula can provide students with a moral and intellectual compass, guiding them toward a future where economic progress and environmental sustainability coexist harmoniously. 

 

References: 

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) (2023).Pathways to Carbon Neutrality: Global Trends and Solutions’, Chapter 3. 

Sharma, P. (2022) ‘The Ethical Imperative in Sustainable Engineering Design’, Chapter 5. 

United Nations (2021) ‘Goal 13: Climate Action. In Sustainable Development Goals: Achieving a Balance between Growth and Sustainability’. (pp. 120-135). 

World Bank (2022) ‘Renewable Energy in Developing Nations: Prospects and Challenges’, pp.10-15. 

World Bank Group (2023) Cleaner cities, Brighter Futures: Ethiopia’s journey in urban sanitation, World Bank. (Accessed: 05 February 2024).   

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.  

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 
 

To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

We’ve collated a library of links to groups, networks, organisations, and initiatives that connect you with others who are working on embedding sustainability in engineering education.

 

In developing the resources for the EPC’s Sustainability Toolkit, we took into account recent scholarship and best practices and reviewed existing material available on sustainability in engineering. You can find links to these online resources in our ever-growing library of
engineering education resources on sustainability below. Please note, the resources linked
below are all open-source. If you want to suggest a resource that has helped you, find out how
on our Get Involved page.

 

To view a page that only lists library links from a specific category type:

 

Collaboration resources

Organisation Type Sustainability focus
Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS) Student groups General
European Students of Industrial Engineering and Management (ESTIEM) Student groups Engineering-specific
People & Planet Student groups General
Student Platform For Engineering Education Development (SPEED) Student groups Engineering-specific
Global Spark Student groups General
Board of European Students of Technology (BEST) Student groups General
UN regional centre for expertise Networks General
Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education(EAUC) Networks General
RCE Scotland – Learning for Sustainability Scotland Networks General
UN Global Compact Network Networks General
Global Engineering Deans Council (GEDC ) Networks Engineering-specific
International Federation of Engineering Education Societies (IFEES) Networks Engineering-specific
Engineering for Change Networks Engineering-specific
Higher Education Sustainability Initiative(HESI) Organisations / Initiatives General
UK Fires Organisations / Initiatives Engineering-specific
Engineering for One Planet (EOP) Organisations / Initiatives Engineering-specific
Engineers Without Borders UK (EWB-UK) Organisations / Initiatives Engineering-specific
SEFI Sustainability Special Interest Group Organisations / Initiatives Engineering-specific
Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme (IUSDRP) Organisations / Initiatives General

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

This post is also available here.

Author: The Sustainability Resources Library was produced by Crystal Nwagboso (Engineering Professors Council). If you want to suggest a resource that has helped you, find out how on our Get Involved page.

In developing the resources for the EPC’s Sustainability Toolkit, we took into account recent scholarship and best practices and reviewed existing material available on sustainability in engineering. You can find links to these online resources in our ever-growing library of engineering education resources on sustainability below. Please note, the resources linked below are all open-source. If you want to suggest a resource that has helped you, find out how on our Get Involved page.

 

Jump to a section on this page:

 

To view a page that only lists library links from a specific category type:

 

Assessment tools

Listed below are links to tools that are designed to support educators’ ability to measure quality and impact of sustainability teaching and learning activities. These have been grouped according to topic. You can also find our suite of assessment tools, here.

Resource Topic Discipline
Newcastle University’s Assessing Education for Sustainable Development Assessment materials  General
Welsh Assembly Government: Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship. A self-assessment toolkit for Work-Based Learning Providers. Assessment materials  General
The Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes (AHEP) – Fourth edition Accreditation materials  General
Times Higher Education – Impact Rankings 2022 Accreditation materials  General
Times Higher Education, Impact Rankings 2023 Accreditation materials  General
The UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence and Commitment (UK-SPEC) Accreditation materials  General

 

Collaboration resources

Click to view our Collaboration resources page where you can find links to groups, networks, and organisations/initiatives that will support educators’ ability to learn with and from others. 

 

Integration tools

Listed below are links to tools designed to support educators ability to apply and embed sustainability topics within their engineering teaching. These have been grouped according to topic. You can also find our suite of learning activities and case studies, here.

Resource Topic Discipline
Engineering for One Planet Framework Learning Outcomes Curriculum Development  Engineering-specific
Education & Training Foundation’s Map the Curriculum Tool for ESD Curriculum Development  General
University College Cork’s Sustainable Development Goals Toolkit Curriculum Development  General
Strachan, S.M. et al. (2019) Using vertically integrated projects to embed research-based education for Sustainable Development in undergraduate curricula, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education. (Accessed: 01 February 2024). Curriculum Development  General
Snowflake Education – Faculty Training: Teaching Sustainability Program Curriculum Development General
Siemens Case Studies on Sustainability Case Studies Engineering-specific
Low Energy Transition Initiative Case Studies Case Studies , Energy Engineering-specific
UK Green Building Council Case Studies Case Studies , Construction Engineering-specific
Litos, L. et al. (2017) Organizational designs for sharing environmental best practice between manufacturing sites, SpringerLink. (Accessed: 01 February 2024). Case Studies , Manufacturing Engineering-specific
Litos, L. et al. (2017) A maturity-based improvement method for eco-efficiency in manufacturing systems, Procedia Manufacturing. (Accessed: 01 February 2024). Case Studies , Manufacturing Engineering-specific
European Product Bureau – Indicative list of software tools and databases for Level(s) indicator 1.2 (version December 2020). Technical tools, Built environment Engineering-specific
Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) – Whole life carbon assessment (WLCA) for the built environment Technical tools, Built environment Engineering-specific
The Institution of Structural Engineers (ISTRUCTE) – The Structural carbon tool – version 2 Technical tools, Structural engineering Engineering-specific
Green, M. (2014) What the social progress index can reveal about your country, Michael Green: What the Social Progress Index can reveal about your country | TED Talk. (Accessed: 01 February 2024). Technical tools  General

Manfred Max-Neef’s Fundamental human needs (Matrix of needs and satisfiers)

”One of the applications of the work is in the field of Strategic Sustainable Development, where the fundamental human needs (not the marketed or created desires and wants) are used in the Brundtland definition.”

Technical tools  General
Siemens – Engineering student software  Technical tools Engineering-specific
Despeisse, M. et al. (2016) A collection of tools for factory eco-efficiency, Procedia CIRP. (Accessed: 01 February 2024). Technical tools, Manufacturing Engineering-specific
Engineering for One Planet Quickstart Activity Guide Other Learning Activities  Engineering-specific
Engineering for One Planet Comprehensive Guide to Teaching Learning Outcomes Other Learning Activities  Engineering-specific
Siemens Engineering Curriculum Materials Other Learning Activities  Engineering-specific
VentureWell’s Activities for Integrating Sustainability into Technical Classes Other Learning Activities  General
VentureWell’s Tools for Design and Sustainability Other Learning Activities  Engineering-specific
AskNature’s Biomimicry Toolbox Other Learning Activities  Engineering-specific
Segalas , J. (2020) Freely available learning resources for Sustainable Design in engineering education, SEFI. (Accessed: 01 February 2024). Other Learning Activities  Engineering-specific
Siemens Xcelerator Academy Other Learning Activities  Engineering-specific

 

Knowledge tools

Listed below are links to resources that support educators’ awareness and understanding of sustainability topics in general as well as their connection to engineering education in particular. These have been grouped according to topic. You can also find our suite of knowledge tools, here.

Resource Topic Discipline
UN SDG website Education for Sustainable Development and UN Sustainable Development Goals General
UNESCO’s Education for Sustainable Development Toolbox Education for Sustainable Development and UN Sustainable Development Goals General
Newcastle University’s Guide to Engineering and Education for Sustainable Development Education for Sustainable Development and UN Sustainable Development Goals General
International Institute for Sustainable Development Knowledge Hub Education for Sustainable Development and UN Sustainable Development Goals General
PBL, SDGs, and Engineering Education WFEO Academy webinar (only accessible to WFEO academy members) Education for Sustainable Development and UN Sustainable Development Goals Engineering-specific
Re-setting the Benchmarks for Engineering Graduates with the Right Skills for Sustainable Development WFEO Academy webinar (only accessible to WFEO academy members) Education for Sustainable Development and UN Sustainable Development Goals Engineering-specific
AdvanceHE’s Guidance on embedding Education for Sustainable Development in HE Education for Sustainable Development and UN Sustainable Development Goals General
UNESCO Engineering Report  Education for Sustainable Development and UN Sustainable Development Goals Engineering-specific
AdvanceHEEducation for Sustainable Development: a review of the literature 2015-2022  (only accessible to colleagues from member institutions at AdvanceHE – this is a member benefit until October 2025) Education for Sustainable Development and UN Sustainable Development Goals General

Wackernagel, M., Hanscom, L. and Lin, D. (2017) Making the Sustainable Development Goals consistent with sustainability, Frontiers. (Accessed: 01 February 2024).

Education for Sustainable Development and UN Sustainable Development Goals General
Vertically Integrated Projects for Sustainable Development (VIP4SD), University of Strathclyde (Video) Education for Sustainable Development and UN Sustainable Development Goals General
Vertically Integrated Projects for Sustainable Development, University of Strathclyde (Study with us) Education for Sustainable Development and UN Sustainable Development Goals General
Siemens Skills for Sustainability Network Roundtable Article – August 2022 Education for Sustainable Development and UN Sustainable Development Goals Engineering-specific
Siemens Skills for Sustainability Network Roundtable Article – October 2022 Education for Sustainable Development and UN Sustainable Development Goals Engineering-specific
Siemens Skills for Sustainability Student Survey Student Voice  Engineering-specific
Students Organising for Sustainability Learning Academy Student Voice  General
Students Organising for Sustainability – Sustainability Skills Survey Student Voice  General
Engineers Without Borders-UK Global Responsibility Competency Compass Competency Frameworksfor Sustainability  Engineering-specific
Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment Sustainability Skills Map Competency Frameworksfor Sustainability  General
Arizona State School of Sustainability Key Competencies Competency Frameworksfor Sustainability  General
EU GreenComp: the European Sustainability Competence Framework Competency Frameworksfor Sustainability  General
International Engineering Alliance Graduate Attributes & Professional Competencies Competency Frameworksfor Sustainability  General
Engineering for One Planet (EOP) – The EOP Framework Competency Frameworksfor Sustainability  Engineering-specific
Ellen Macarthur Foundation’s Circular Economy website Broader Context , Circular economy Engineering-specific
GreenBiz’s Cheat Sheet of EU Sustainability Regulations Broader Context , Regulations General
Green Software Practitioner – Principles of Green Software Broader Context , Software Engineering-specific
Microsoft’s Principles of Sustainable Software Engineering Broader Context , Software Engineering-specific
Engineering Futures – Sustainability in Engineering 2023 webinars  (You will need to create an account on the Engineering Futures website. Once you have created your account, navigate back to this link, scroll down to ”Sustainability in Engineering Webinars” and enter your account details. Click on the webinar recordings you wish to access. You will then be redirected to the Crowdcast website, where you will need to create an account to view the recordings.) Broader Context, Engineering Engineering-specific
Innes, C. (2023) AI and Sustainability: Weighing up the environmental pros and cons of Machine Intelligence Technology., Jisc – Infrastructure.  (Accessed: 01 February 2024). Broader Context, Artificial Intelligence Engineering-specific
Arnold, W. (2020a) The structural engineer’s responsibility in this climate emergency, The Institution of Structural Engineers. (Accessed: 01 February 2024). Broader Context, Structural engineering Engineering-specific
Arnold, W. (2017) Structural engineering in 2027, The Institution of Structural Engineers. (Accessed: 01 February 2024). Broader Context, Structural engineering Engineering-specific
Arnold, W. (2020b) The institution’s response to the climate emergency, The Institution of Structural Engineers. (Accessed: 01 February 2024). Broader Context, Structural engineering Engineering-specific
Litos , L. et al. (2023) An investigation between the links of sustainable manufacturing practices and Innovation, Procedia CIRP. (Accessed: 01 February 2024). Broader Context, Manufacturing Engineering-specific
UAL Fashion SEEDS: Fashion Societal, Economic and Environmental Design-led Sustainability
Broader context, Design General

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Author: The Sustainability Resources Library was produced by Crystal Nwagboso (Engineering Professors Council). If you want to suggest a resource that has helped you, find out how on our Get Involved page.

This post is also available here.

The Engineering Professors’ Council is pleased to announce the appointment of the leadership team for its Ethics Ambassadors community.

The Ethics Ambassadors community was created in March 2023, to expand and develop the work and recommendations of the Engineering Ethics Advisory Group, on their completion of Phase 2 of the Engineering Ethics Toolkit.

At its first meeting during the EAN Congress in June 2023, members formally agreed to the group’s establishment and its purpose and goals, and volunteered for various leadership roles. After a voting process, the appointments of the following individuals were confirmed:

Additional leadership roles around events, Toolkit content, and support have also been confirmed and can be seen on our Ambassadors page.

During their first year, the Ethics Ambassadors aim to promote and guide the use of the Engineering Ethics Toolkit among engineering educators, to continue its development by soliciting new resources, to seek continued funding that supports the Toolkit’s management and hosting, and to build the group’s membership.

If you are interested in joining please fill out our membership application form.

 

This post is also available here.

Have you used our Engineering Ethics Toolkit in your teaching? We want to hear from you!

February 2022 saw the launch of our Engineering Ethics Toolkit, with a range of case studies and guidance articles available to help engineering educators embed ethics into their modules and curriculum.

In March 2023 we published further guidance articles and case studies, as well as enhancements on some of the classroom activities suggested within our original cases. June 2023 saw the launch of the interactive Ethics Explorer, which replaced the static engineering ethics curriculum map from 2015.

More and more engineering educators are telling us that they use these resources, and are finding them invaluable in their teaching. A brave few have contributed blogs, detailing their methods of using and adapting our case studies and classroom activities, and giving an honest appraisal of their own learning curve in teaching ethics.

We’ve heard about leaning in to your discomfort, first time fear, and letting students flex their ethical muscles.

We would love to publish more of this type of content. We want to hear your experiences, good or bad, along with tips, potential pitfalls, what you added to our content in your teaching, and what you and your students got out of the experience. If you have students who are enthusiastic about sharing their thoughts, we would love to hear from them too.

We’d like you to send us your blogs and testimonials, whether that be a couple of sentences or paragraphs, or a full article with diagrams, or anything in between.

You can submit your blog post or testimonial here, or email Wendy Attwell to discuss your submission first.

We look forward to hearing your experiences.

This post is also available here.

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Authors: Dr. Jude Bramton (University of Bristol); Elizabeth Robertson (University of Strathclyde); Sarah Jayne Hitt, Ph.D. SFHEA (NMITE, Edinburgh Napier University).

Keywords: Collaboration; Pedagogy.

Who is this article for?: This article should be read by educators at all levels in higher education who wish to integrate ethics into the engineering and design curriculum or module design.

 

How to organise class sessions:

Engineering educators can find a wealth of ethics case studies in the Engineering Ethics Toolkit. Each one focuses on different disciplines, different areas of ethics learning, and different professional situations, meaning there is almost certainly a case study that could be embedded in one of your classes.

Even so, it can be difficult to know how to organise the delivery of the session. Fortunately, Toolkit contributors Jude Bramton of the University of Bristol and Elizabeth Robertson of the University of Strathclyde have put together diagrams that demonstrate their approaches. These processes can act as helpful guides for you as you integrate an Ethics case study in one of your engineering class sessions.

 

Jude Bramton’s class session organisation looks like this:

You can read more about her approach here.

 

Elizabeth Robertson’s class session organisation looks like this:

You can read more about her approach here.

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

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