Embedding sustainability education in the engineering curriculum through a national design competition



Publication Details

Stappenbelt, B. & Rowles, C. (2010). Embedding sustainability education in the engineering curriculum through a national design competition. Teaching and learning for global graduates, Proceedings of the 19th Annual Teaching Learning Forum (pp. 1-1). Perth:


In order to progress the process of change toward the Millennium development goals and global sustainable development, education necessarily plays a significant role. Amongst the many challenges facing educators is the question of how to better align the higher education curriculum with the requirements for global sustainability whilst achieving the dual outcomes of educating about and for sustainable development. At the University of Western Australia (UWA), sustainability education was embedded within a core first-year engineering unit through the adoption of a national design competition. The Engineers Without Borders (EWB) design challenge was employed as the focus of student activity within the unit Introduction to Professional Engineering. This unit is the foundation of the engineering student's professional development at UWA. The content of this unit includes examining multi-disciplinary, legal, ethical, social, sustainability, communication and environmental considerations related to professional engineering practice. The EWB design challenge provided students with the opportunity to learn about professional engineering whilst contributing towards a real international development project. The understanding and application of the triple bottom line concept was a core requirement for the successful completion of both the design task and the unit of study. The EWB design challenge was integrated in the unit using a project-based learning framework and several innovative approaches such as the use of a cultural advisory panel and interactive workshops were utilised to enhance student engagement. The adoption of the EWB design challenge competition assisted in the development of a range of sustainability related generic engineering graduate attributes specified through the Institute of Engineers Australia (IEAust) accreditation standards. These included an understanding of the social, cultural, global and environmental responsibilities of the professional engineer, and the need for sustainable development; understanding of the principles of sustainable design and development; and understanding of professional and ethical responsibilities and commitment to them. Many student comments indicated that their experience with the EWB sustainable development project was a transformative experience

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