Civil and construction engineering students must learn to deploy sustainable systems that balance economic, social, political, and community considerations, in addition to technical considerations in order to address America's declining infrastructure. A sustainable urban infrastructure-focused project-based learning (PBL) course framework for upper-division undergraduates is being developed that: (i) incorporates lower-division undergraduates through cross-course consultation to link sustainability concepts across multiple engineering undergraduate core courses; (ii) trains graduate students to lead teams of undergraduates in their research efforts, (iii) incorporates regional/city policy and decision makers to ground students in the economic, social, political, and technical considerations they will face; and (iv) creates a knowledge hub for other educators and researchers to access information about the project to implement the framework at their own universities, and to contribute to community building.
The project is evaluating whether integrating sustainability concepts through PBL into existing undergraduate civil and construction engineering courses results in improvements in team-based problem-solving skills and whether collaborations between upper and lower division undergraduates in multiple courses improve students' ability to apply concepts taught in introductory courses to future courses.
Using authentic urban sustainability problems reinforces the links among courses and levels within the undergraduate civil and construction engineering curriculum so that students have a stronger grasp of the competing constraints in sustainability problem solving. Students who have assessed sustainable engineering problems become aware of the multifaceted constraints when deploying sustainable infrastructure and are better equipped to balance the future needs of the country. Ultimately, this framework can be implemented in undergraduate engineering curriculum at other universities and has the potential to provide a template course structure for sustainable engineering education.