Sustainable Development and Engineering Technology
According to United Nations, “2016 presents an unprecedented opportunity to bring the countries and citizens of the world together to embark on a new path to improve the lives of people everywhere. Countries have adopted a new sustainable development agenda and global agreement on climate change.” There are different definitions of sustainable development but according to Geir B. Asheim “Sustainability is defined as a requirement of our generation to manage the resource base such that the average quality of life that we ensure ourselves can potentially be shared by all future generations…. Development is sustainable if it involves a non-decreasing average quality of life.”
To achieve sustainable development, United Nations adopted 17 development goals. In particular, Sustainable Development Goal 7 is to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. Sustainable Development Goal 13 is to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts” while Sustainable Development Goal 12 aims to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.”
In alignment with such noble goals, the Center for Urban Agriculture and Sustainability (CUAS) at our university brings together students from various disciplines and educates them on sustainability in an urban environment, teaches them about renewable energy sources and associated technologies, provides opportunities to students to produce goods and food in a sustainable manner, and engages them in community service. Our university’s community garden and community gardens of our local partners are used by students to contribute towards achieving UN Sustainable Goals 7, 12 and 13.
In this paper, the focus is on the use of technologies to achieve sustainable development. Students from our engineering technology department developed systems to harvest solar and wind energies, and used such energy to power a computer controlled system which automatically irrigates the university’s garden based on soil water needs. The design of the solar and wind energy collection systems, instrumentation, wireless data transfer, and automation mechanisms will be presented. Since such work was carried out as part of engineering technology students’ senior capstone project, lessons on project management, budget and schedule development, teamwork, and technical communication will also be presented. Biology students from our Natural Sciences department have primary responsibility for the types of vegetables and other crops to be produced by the garden and manage its day to day operation. A student of Social Work from the College of Public Service did research on the impact of the community garden on those served by the garden. This particular garden was part of a collaborative program to feed homeless in our city. Since this work required involvement and interaction with students from other disciplines, lessons learned by implementing this project and having students from multiple departments being responsible for its final outcome will also be discussed.
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