Dr. Charles Coe, Chemical Engineering (Villanova)

Alternative Energy

By applying the information provided during the Valley and Ridge Workshop I have been able to revise an existing Alternative Energy course (ChE 5715) to increase opportunities for classroom participation and experiential learning.  A common thread that will be weaved throughout the course is how sustainable energy production will improve our future water and food supplies.  A guest lecturer from Social Sciences will engage the students and bring the message that sustainable living is a social imperative for all to protect our “common home.”  Portions of the Pope’s encyclical on the environment and climate change will be a required reading.  By relating alternative energy production to food and water in addition to producing, distributing, and storing energy, there will be a tangible, recognizable immediate consequence on a subject that provides for both placed-based and experiential learning.  In keeping with reinventing the existing course, topics such as vertical farms in urban areas, desalination methods, and improved irrigation methods have been included with another guest lecturer providing an overview of sustainable agriculture.  Three new homework problems that require the students to obtain inputs from their own home region are being developed.  Results from rural, suburban, and city regions will be shared and the differences and similarities will be the focus of classroom discussions emphasizing the importance of “place”.  In addition, a visit to a local trash to steam plant is planned. To make time for these additions, some of the existing lectures on fossil fuels and energy overviews have been covered in reading assignments. Additional local examples are being included by obtaining data from local and state municipalities to highlight what is occurring in the student’s backyard as well as in foreign lands. With these multifaceted opportunities for learning about alternative energy, students will gain experiences greater than before.