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NSF CCLI 1023054 Phase 2 Expansion, “Engaged Interdisciplinary Learning in Sustainability (EILS): Enhancing STEM Education through Social and Technological Literacy,” A. Shakouri (PI), co-PIs: Lipschutz (Politics), Dupuis (Sociology), Gleissman (Env. Studies), Isaacson (EE), Crow (Sociology), Nixon (San Jose State Univ.), Tappero, Groppi, Merrill (Cabrillo College)
Engaged Interdisciplinary Learning in Sustainability (EILS) is designed to integrate new pedagogies, analytical skills and applied techniques to daily activities and practices critical to sustainability in the context of higher education. The project involves close interdisciplinary collaboration between faculty from engineering and social sciences, through creation and delivery of a series of courses, labs, teaching methods and materials in sustainability engineering and ecological design. Intellectual merit: EILS seeks to develop the field of “Sustainability Science and Sustainability Studies” (S4) and formalize it as an educational “interdiscipline.” S4 is critical to a successful transition to a Nation and world that effectively and equitably protects the planet’s environment and ecology. Our approach to S4 rests on the interdisciplinary integration of technical-scientific and social science fields of inquiry, taking as its focus research into and teaching about the engineering, scientific and social science elements of current and future policy and practice. We propose to develop this new interdiscipline through application of new pedagogical approaches in courses, laboratory exercises, internships, workshops and careful assessment of instructor and student achievements. The project includes elements of STEM education, cyber learning and technological and social literacy elements, directed toward education of skilled professionals. This curriculum will include interactive laboratories in renewable energy systems, water resources, ecological footprint, sustainable agriculture, urban design, and life-cycle analysis which are accessible to students with diverse backgrounds. Most courses will include a service learning project for students with different disciplines to work together. This provides the opportunity to learn about engineering design and real life social implementation issues. We also plan to create a senior project and a framework for social science students to actively interact with engineering ones in their capstone design course. Broader impact: EILS will expand and extend learning materials, teaching strategies and pedagogical innovations initiated through two CCLI Phase I grants. This project will (i) educate and train students in the range of knowledge and skills necessary to implement sustainability-related technologies and practices; (ii) establish collaborative relationships with other educational institutions in order to create synergies among what are now independent efforts; (iii) expand and deepen a learning model that provides students with timely and useful skills and capacities; (iv) establish a model for developing infrastructure that connects campus/community stewardship and institutional change with academic coursework; (v) make available an interdisciplinary framework for teaching and training about sustainability to a broad range of institutions, (vi) mentor graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, and (vii) lay the foundation for a future Center of Excellence. The project will offer access to this new and promising field to underrepresented populations and further institutionalize STEM education as well as engineering, natural science and social science methods and epistemologies throughout the U.S. education system. Course and co-curricular materials will be supplemented by detailed instructor manuals with emphasis on learner-centered pedagogy supported by formative and peer assessment strategies and a Handbook for Sustainability Engineering and Ecological Design.


NSF CCLI 0817589: Renewable Energy and Engaged Interdisciplinary Learning for Sustainability (REELS)Ali Shakouri (PI), Christopher Bacon, Ben Crow, Melanie DuPuis, Joel Kubby, Ronnie Lipschutz; 2008-10. This project has developed a combination of hands-on laboratories and community projects, and case studies in order to create a learning environment that cultivates innovation and inclusiveness, builds quantitative skills, and expands topical knowledge about renewable energies and social justice issues related to sustainable development. Engineering students have learned about broader social impacts and the non technical issues important for the implementation of sustainable life styles and the social justice issues. Social science students improved scientific reasoning, applied engineering, and quantitative analysis skills. Students, faculty and community partners explored strategies to link social technologies with material innovations. The partnership connecting sociology with engineering attracted more women and underrepresented minorities to careers in science and engineering. The transdisciplinary sustainability laboratories originally designed for a new social science class (Socy115) are being adopted as a model to provide a structured pedagogy for other classes pursuing sustainability project design projects connecting to the university-wide efforts to reduce carbon footprint on campus and in the community.


NSF CCLI #0837151: Sustainability Engineering and Ecological Design Learning Partnership (SEED-LP)Ronnie Lipschutz (PI), Ben Crow, Melanie DuPuis, Stephen Gliessman, Ali Shakouri; 2009-11. The investigators are developing a pedagogical environment that brings together students from natural sciences and engineering with students from the social sciences, in order to facilitate learning and application of cognate skills and knowledge. During the first year of the grant (2009-10), the Co-PIs, post-docs and graduate student researchers have been (i) designing and developing a course and linked labs in Technological Literacy and Social-Institutional Literacy. The first provides instruction in the quantitative aspects of sustainable science and engineering with an emphasis on problem solving, designed especially for students from the social sciences, while the second offers instruction in and application of social science concepts and frameworks relevant to sustainability issues for students from the physical sciences and engineering; (ii) developing and applying refined assessment tools in existing courses and labs, and compiling and analyzing results.  These are focused on specific topics, e.g., Food and/or Energy, and include labs on physics, chemistry, designs, installation and life-cycle costs. During the second year of the grant (2010-11), the Co-PIs will teach the Literacy course and labs (as part of their regular teaching load) and, based on results, will revise and focus both for future offerings; (ii) revise course materials for inclusion in a textbook; (iii) develop additional sustainability labs for SEED courses; and (iv) write a journal article about the literacy course and results from it.


NSF CCLI #0942439 A Web-Enabled, Interactive Remote Laboratory for Renewable Energy, Joel Kubby (PI), Ali Shakouri, Brook Haag, 2009-11. The project is developing computer interfaces and new curricula to provide students in introductory renewable energy courses with an interactive, Web-based laboratory using state-of-the-art photovoltaic systems and monitoring equipment. The project team is preparing learning modules for a photovoltaic test facility at the NASA Ames Research Center to enable students to control the azimuth and elevation of a tracking photovoltaic panel to optimize its power output based on real-time measurements of the panels current and voltage. They also are planning additional research making use of nanotechnology, such as quantum wires and dots, allowing students to compare their performance to that achieved with commercial technology. To support the laboratory experience, the investigators are writing Java applets and graphical user interfaces that provide online tutorials and automated feedback tools to measure student learning. By partnering with a two-year Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), they are testing the approach in a different academic setting. An independent evaluator is providing formative and summative studies to determine how well the students understand the relationship between the measured environmental factors and generator performance. The investigators are disseminating their materials and results through a webpage, tagged with descriptive metadata and linked to the NSDL, and through presentations and publications in the area of undergraduate education. Broader impacts include the partnership with the HSI, the dissemination of the materials, and outreach activities using an existing K-12 program.

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