The National Academy of Engineering identified the Grand Challenges for Engineering in 2008. The United Nations Sustainable Development Summit also set sustainable development goals that were adopted by world leaders in 2015. These goals, which were set to be achieved in a fifteen-year period, address pressing universal issues, including climate change, social inequalities, poverty, and clean water access. The field of engineering is regarded as an essential part of innovation, technological progress, and addressing global issues. The humanities, however, are often overlooked as being a softer science and are considered to be dichotomous with the field of engineering. A bridge between engineering and the humanities must be built, for they are incontestably intertwined. Engineering, by its very nature, is based around creativity and moving the world forward. Too often, engineering courses teach only equations and figures, overlooking how these fundamentals relate to the world and its people. In an effort to empower and prepare the next generation of engineers to create sustainable solutions to global issues, xxx University, with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), has developed a curriculum based around algae. The project is titled "Algae Grows the Future". This curriculum utilizes algae-based experiments and lessons to teach foundational engineering principles, emphasize the link between engineering and humanities, and encourage students to pursue creative, conscientious solutions. The curriculum has been designed with adjustable complexity, suiting K-12 and college freshman students, and has been implemented in both middle school and freshman engineering classrooms. Calorimetry experiments allow students to investigate the nutritional benefits of algae-based products and challenge students to consider the application of algae in the fight against world hunger. Gas transfer experiments are used to research the sustainability of algae in the water treatment process. Algae can also be used to generate energy sustainably, as the oils found in some algae species can be used as biofuels. Students learn about biofuels and extract algae oils to generate energy within the classroom. While students learn principles of math, science, and experimentation, they are also encouraged to explore the political, cultural, and economic barriers that prevent algae-based solutions from being implemented in many places around the world. . Each experiment requires data collection, analyses and interpretation. Technical and reflective writings along with oral presentations are integrated with the course. Students are exposed to case studies via movies, readings and documentaries that allow them to learn about ethics, race/gender issues and public policy. The objective of this curriculum is to give students the knowledge to help them solve sustainable development issues in the future, while also teaching them crucial engineering skills and awareness of global issues. Ultimately, this project hopes to teach a generation of future thinkers the impact that engineering can have on solving humanitarian issues around the world.
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