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Bridging Engineering and Sustainability through Challenge Driven Education: a Case Study on Innoenergy Masters of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology
Two contemporary academic movements can be argued to be important for the integration of more field- practice- and cross-disciplinary team-based learning experiences into the engineering education curriculum. Firstly, the growth of research in sustainability in combination with the need for change in engineering education, which is seen to evolve from environmental focus to the inclusion of social and transdisciplinary approaches. Secondly, the evolution of engineering education in general: from traditional and instructive to student centred, constructive and practice oriented as well as from isolated and exclusive to an inter-twined part of society, where society’s need for “socially responsible future entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders” is emphasized. This implies that the communities of engineering education come to terms with the idea that not only environmental engineers, but all engineers, should be equipped with knowledge, skills, values and experiences in order to meet the needs of society. The two worlds will then probably need to meet somewhere in the middle. Challenge driven education (CDE) is one of many alternatives which can bridge engineering and sustainability. In CDE, students work with real-life complex and ill-defined socio-technical problems with the aim to find proposals of solutions to the problems that are ecologically, socially and economically sustainable. This case study investigates the integration of CDE in seven international and cross-border organized Masters’ programs which are coordinated within InnoEnergy. InnoEnergy is a transnational educational initiative supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. The investigation aims to investigate the various perceived drivers and barriers for CDE, as well as the approaches for integration of CDE, among the program directors in the seven international and cross-border organized masters’ programs. To what extent, or in which ways, are the CDE initiatives integrated in the programs? And, more specifically, how are the project topics, the students’ work processes and the delivery of the outcomes, mapped to the SD transdisciplinary approaches and competencies? Semi structured interviews with academic program directors and faculty running the project courses, have been transcribed and analysed, together with program documents, including stakeholder surveys and program reviews. Furthermore, a selection of the students’ final reports has been analysed. Preliminary findings show that the integration of the CDE approach has been initiated in the seven masters’ programs to various extents and forms. There is a common core of successful initiation. The InnoEnergy students are working with complex challenges from various stakeholders, with challenges and course designs related to various contextual factors. Furthermore the findings reveal that the concept of Sustainable development is not explicitly integrated, but rather implicitly or “obviously” since the programs are all aiming at finding more sustainable energy solutions. From an SD research perspective this can be seen as problematic, as for instance policy, user needs, democracy and economy could be neglected using this rather narrow view of sustainability. However, this was not per se neglected by all teams, as the research group found several examples where student teams looked at gender issues, minority needs and poverty, in relation to energy solutions.