Design for Sustainability: Courses of Study for Electrical Engineers

Stanford University

Waste produced by the disposal of outdated computer systems presents a serious environmental problem. A team of business, engineering, and liberal arts faculty at Auburn University is developing balanced design curricula for junior and senior electrical engineering students that focus on sustainability design for computer equipment through teaching modules incorporated into existing courses and the development of Recycling the Toxic Computer, an elective senior design course. Auburn will also host a nationwide workshop on sustainable engineering curriculum development to disseminate the results of the program at the end of the three-year grant period.

Through modules inserted into laboratory courses, junior-year students learn the social, economic, and environmental impacts of computer system product design and manufacture. Senior-year students have the ability to incorporate sustainability constraints into the design of a computer system product, and seniors taking the elective design course demonstrate the design of a computer system product that meets sustainability requirements and generate a business plan for the product with the goal of bringing it to market.