A new course of studies in “green engineering” offers students in the Caribbean the chance to explore how to design and use products, processes, and systems more sustainably.
With support from the Organization of American States (OAS), teachers from around the region recently met in Jamaica for a three-day Green Engineering Boot Camp to look at effective ways to teach this interdisciplinary subject in the classroom and help students develop strong problem-solving skills. The Green Engineering Syllabus, which was introduced to students in the region in 2016, offers a mix of academic and practical content. The two-year course does not make someone an engineer, “but it gives you a good point of reference for any job you do,” explained Dr. Paulette Bynoe, Dean of the Faculty of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Guyana, who headed the panel that developed the syllabus.
Green engineering, she said, looks at the big picture to determine how materials and processes can be structured to minimize environmental impact, meet high performance standards, and be viable economically. This is an area of potential interest not only to an engineer but to someone who might draft environmental regulations for a waste management system, for example, or someone looking to develop more sustainable approaches to tourism or agriculture.
“Environmental problems are everyone’s concern and everyone’s responsibility,” Bynoe said in a phone interview. “Regardless of what discipline you pursue, you are still an occupant of Planet Earth.”
One goal of green engineering is to minimize the use of materials and energy from the very start of a design process. In looking at what will go into a product, for example, an engineer might ask: How can this material be used sustainably? Is it hazardous? If so, will energy be required to treat it? How can it be disposed of at the end of its life cycle? In designing a building, a key concern might be how the architecture can capitalize on natural ventilation and use less energy.
The Green Engineering Syllabus is organized into two year-long units (“Introduction to Green Engineering” and “Application of Green Engineering Principles”), each of which comprises three modules. The material covers considerable ground, from the concept of sustainable development to the role of entropy in the manufacturing process. One section looks at lessons learned from nature about maximum efficiency in product design—a concept known as biomimicry. The syllabus also calls for students to visit industries or other facilities to examine sustainability issues in the field, and to build a detailed model to illustrate a design process.
Read more at Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas.read more