Integrating humanities with engineering fundamentals

Kauser Jahan, Tiago R. Forin, Roisin Breen, Patricia Lynn Hurley, Erin Elizabeth Pepe, Jiayun Shen, Iman Noshadi

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


At the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Summit, a set of sustainable development goals was formed and adopted by world leaders. 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 addressing world issues. The humanities, however, are often considered to be dichotomous with the field of engineering. A bridge between engineering and 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, the Algae Grows the Future team at Rowan University, with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), has developed a curriculum based around algae. 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 will learn about biofuels and will extract algae oils to generate energy within the classroom. While students will be learning principles of math and science, they will also be encouraged to explore the political, cultural, and economic barriers that prevent algae-based solutions from being implemented in many places around the world. The objective of this curriculum is to give students the knowledge to solve sustainable development issues in the future, while also teaching crucial engineering skills and awareness of global issues. The curriculum has been successfully implemented in first-year engineering classes and a middle school classroom and ultimately hopes to teach a generation of future thinkers the impact that engineering can have on solving humanitarian issues around the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 23 2018
Event125th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Salt Lake City, United States
Duration: Jun 23 2018Dec 27 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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