Sustainability Inclusion Efforts in Three Unique First-Year Engineering Courses
Throughout the world, various institutions and programs are working to integrate sustainability into engineering education. University engineering programs can be a pivotal place for future engineers to gain understanding of sustainability and its importance, including in first-year courses. At the University of Colorado Boulder, three courses for first year engineering students are uniquely integrating sustainability. The courses selected for this study are 1) First-Year Engineering Projects, 2) Introduction to Civil Engineering, and 3) Introduction to Global Engineering. First-Year Engineering Projects provides students with the opportunity to use an iterative process to solve real engineering design problems. Introduction to Civil Engineering surveys the discipline and incorporates learning goals on ethics and sustainability. Introduction to Global Engineering addresses the engineer’s role in identifying and acting on global poverty challenges. In this paper, we describe the explicit and implicit learning goals with respect to sustainability in these courses. We then map the sustainability content to the three pillars of sustainability, the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, and Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Levels. At the end of the Fall 2021 semester, students in each of the three courses were asked to complete a survey that used 7-pt Likert-type items to evaluate student interest and motivation toward sustainability and 11-point rating items on confidence/self-efficacy. Student perception on sustainability was found to differ by: course, discipline, gender, major, student previous knowledge, and student general interests. Within each course, impactful factors include the learning objectives, quantity of sustainability inclusion and method of delivery. A given course is not the sole determining factor of students’ awareness of sustainability, but it can have an effect. Sustainability can look different across engineering disciplines, and each area and method of incorporating sustainability has its own place, value, and impact.