Published: Oct. 13, 2023 By

"Sustainability in Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Courses at 100 Universities," published in The American Society of Mechanical Engineers Open Engineering Journal, offers inspiration for educators working to integrate sustainable engineering principles in their courses. 

Study author Joany Tisdale, a teaching assistant professor in the Integrated Design Engineering program, said, "To me, this work is exciting and impactful because it can serve as a beginning roadmap for mechanical engineering programs and professors seeking to include sustainability."

The research, sourced from data involving 100 universities—90 in the United States and 10 international—aimed to characterize the current state of sustainability within undergraduate ME courses. It found that a commendable number of mechanical engineering programs have started incorporating sustainability into their curriculum. 

A noteworthy finding was that only 43 out of the 100 benchmarked institutions included sustainability topics in at least one required undergraduate ME course. This number increased to 83 institutions when elective undergraduate ME courses were included, such as renewable energy and global engineering courses. Seven universities stood out by weaving sustainability themes into five or more required courses.

Sustainability was most commonly integrated into required courses in thermodynamics, engineering design, introduction to engineering and heat transfer. The authors identified an area of growth in including all three sustainability pillars—environmental, social and economic—as evidence of this inclusion was somewhat lacking. 

While the findings draw attention to the move toward a sustainable future in the mechanical engineering sector, it also underscores the potential for wider integration. The hope, Tisdale said, is that this study will not only provide a clearer picture of the current landscape but also serve as a catalyst for a more pronounced sustainability focus in ME programs globally.