WIT Press

Motivating Student Interest In Sustainable Engineering And Alternative Energy Research Through Problem Based Learning


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WIT Press


C. D. Kestell


There is increasing evidence that the cost of our ‘disposable society’ is beginning to take a toll and that the continued use of unsustainable resources will have a severe detrimental affect upon the living standards of our successive generations. The possibility of our fossil-fuel resources running dry becomes more likely as the global demand for power increases. This particular resource is also directly responsible for releasing copious quantities of previously entombed carbon directly into our atmosphere, possibly causing global warming. Quite obviously there is therefore a need to consider other means of energy generation that reduce our rate of consuming this finite resource, while also reducing the potential for damage to our planet. This is by no means a new concept, but while scientists and engineers have the ability to initiate change through design, there does not seem to be the level of urgency required to implement effective action. Perhaps there is public confusion regarding alternative energy sources, or perhaps there is simply not sufficient widespread concern for something dramatic to happen right now. As this paper will show, engineering education can be the starting point for change. Graduate engineers can lead the way by researching, designing and developing new practical alternative fuel applications if they are sufficiently enthusiastic. These same engineers can also improve the public’s understanding of alternative energy applications. A number of problem based learning projects have therefore been introduced at The University of Adelaide to develop the necessary graduate attributes while also developing a passion for the development of alternative energy solutions. The merits and outcomes of two projects are discussed here: The Biodiesel Motorbike Project and The Hybrid Electric-Solar Car Project. Keywords: problem based learning, alternative energy.


problem based learning, alternative energy.