Sustainable Product Development Minor

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This multidisciplinary minor is for students interested in exploring issues associated with developing and delivering sustainable product systems. Courses enhance the understanding of the three dimensions of sustainability (economic, ethical, and environmental), develop awareness of the need for more sustainable approaches to product development, and explore strategies for developing and delivering sustainable product systems.

Notes about this minor:

  • Posting of the minor on the student’s academic transcript requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the minor.


Notes about this minor:

  • Posting of the minor on the student’s academic transcript requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the minor.
Required Courses
Engineering Economy*
Time value of money, methods of comparing alternatives, depreciation and depletion, income tax consideration and capital budgeting. Cannot be used as a professional elective for ISE majors. Course provides a foundation for engineers to effectively analyze engineering projects with respect to financial considerations.
Fundamentals of Sustainable Engineering
This is a high level survey course that reviews the product lifecycle from various perspectives and highlights the leverage over material, process, and environmental impacts available at the design phase. Tools and strategies for reducing the environmental impacts associated with the sourcing, manufacture, use, and retirement of products will be reviewed and evaluated.
Lifecycle Assessment
This course introduces students to the challenges posed when trying to determine the total lifecycle impacts associated with a product or a process design. Various costing models and their inherent assumptions will be reviewed and critiqued. The inability of traditional costing models to account for important environmental and social externalities will be highlighted. The Lifecycle Assessment approach for quantifying environmental and social externalities will be reviewed and specific LCA techniques (Streamlined Lifecycle Assessment, SimaPro) will be covered.
Choose two courses from the following groups (at least one course must come from the social context group):
   Social Context
   Sustainable Development
The global economy has demonstrated extraordinary power in gathering resources from and distributing goods to the farthest reaches of the globe. At the same time there is an increase in inequality and in the numbers of poor and hungry, often associated with environmental degradation. These changes are especially obvious in cities, but not limited to them. Since 1987 there has been a concerted effort by the United Nations, as well as by non-governmental organizations, individuals, and some nation-states to explore paths of more sustainable development. This course explores varied strategies now employed to achieve sustainable development, with particular attention to less developed countries.
   Wicked Problems
This course will expose students to approaching and working on wicked problems - unstructured, multidisciplinary issues lacking clear right or wrong answers. The course will introduce key skills for handling unstructured problems such as whole systems thinking, estimation and assumptions, valuation, and problem solving techniques, with the majority of the semester focused on a specific topic (wicked problem) and team case study. Students will work in teams to research and address one aspect or subset of the wicked problem at hand to join collectively with the results of all teams to form a more complete overall solution to the wicked problem.
   Environmental Economics
This course examines the relationship and apparent conflict between economic growth and environmental quality, the economics of environmental issues and policy, the environment as a resource and a public good, and the ability and lack of ability of free markets and the government to deal adequately with pollution and other environmental problems.
   Technology Innovation and Public Policy
Technological innovation, the incremental and revolutionary improvements in technology, has been a major driver in economic, social, military, and political change. This course will introduce generic models of innovation that span multiple sectors including: energy, environment, health, and bio- and information-technologies. The course also analyzes how governments choose policies, such as patents, to spur and shape innovation and its impacts on the economy and society. Students will be introduced to a global perspective on innovation policy including economic competitiveness, technology transfer and appropriate technology.
   Energy Policy
This course provides an overview of energy resources, technologies, and policies designed to ensure clean, stable supplies of energy for the future. The course evaluates the impacts of fossil fuel, renewable energy, and hydrogen technologies on society and how public policies can be used to influence their development. The development of U.S. energy policy is of particular concern, although a global perspective will be integrated throughout the course.
   Introduction to Environmental Studies
This course explores the human condition within an environmental context by emphasizing critical environmental problems facing humans on both a global and regional scale. The approach will be interdisciplinary. The issues, their causes, and their potential solutions will be analyzed with respect to ethical, social, historical, political, scientific, and technological factors.
   Science, Technology, and Values
This course explores the concepts and effects of science and technology on society, analyzes the relationship between science and technology, examines how each has come to play a major role today, and looks at how science and technology have affected and been affected by our values. This course also considers the environmental aspects of science and technology. Science and technology are often assumed to be value free, yet people, guided by individual and societal values, develop the science and technology. In turn, the choices people make among the opportunities provided by science and technology are guided by their individual values.
   Science and Technology Policy
Examines how local, state, federal and international policies are developed to influence innovation, the transfer of technology and industrial productivity in the United States and other selected nations.
   Environment and Society
This course introduces the interdisciplinary foundations of environmental science via an analysis of sustainability within a socio-cultural context. This is a required course for the environmental science degree program.
   Social Consequences of Technology
Modern society is increasingly based on technology. With each advance due to technology, unanticipated problems are also introduced. Society must define and solve these problems or the advances may be diluted or lost. In this course we study several interactions between technology and the world in which we live. We investigate how various technologies developed and compare the expected effects of the new technologies with the actual results.
   Face of the Land
Based on field trips and critical readings, this course explores how the land around us has been shaped and reshaped through a variety of geological forces and historical developments. By considering the natural landforms of the United States (and other countries, as appropriate), students see how the nature of land has determined its value. As technological innovations occur, old relationships with the land have been altered. Thus the course offers students a historical approach to the relationship of technology and society, as evidence by the landscape. The seminar format for this course will also advance students' writing, speaking, and research skills.
   History of Ecology and Environmentalism
This course explores the history of ecological science, from the eighteenth century to the present, and it features the political use of ecological ideas in environmental debates, from the 19th century to the present. We investigate how social and political ideas have influenced ecological science, how ecological concepts have influenced Western politics and society, and how different generations of ecological researchers have viewed their role in society.
   Energy and the Environment
This course will examine contemporary energy issues, with particular emphasis placed on the environmental implications associated with energy consumption and production. Students will learn about various energy technologies and fuels (including nuclear, coal, oil, natural gas, solar, biomass, and wind) and the environmental tradeoffs associated with each of these energy systems.
   Environmental Policy
This course introduces students to federal, state, and local environmental policies and the various policy paths leading to their establishment. Students will understand how societal values inform the content of environmental policies and the impacts, in turn, of these policies on society. In addition, the class will explore how environmental economics informs the new tools of environmental policy. The course covers a range of environmental policies at the U.S. and international levels addressing problems such as air and water pollution, climate change, energy use, and community sustainability.
   Great Lakes
This course utilizes the Great Lakes Basin as an integrating context for understanding global environmental issues. Examining the basin through an interdisciplinary environmental lens the class applies social science approaches to environmental problem solving. Students assess the local, regional, national and international scope of Great Lakes environmental issues through lecture, role-play, and field experiences and consider the importance of government action, public policy, ethics, economics, sociology, history, and engineering while applying social science analysis skills such as surveys, interviews, and content analysis to better understand the depth of local environmental problems and their potential solutions. Environmental science majors prepare a proposal for an environmental consulting project.
This course explores the problems, issues, and values stemming from the current massive loss of biodiversity. Various justifications for preserving or conserving biodiversity will be examined. Although principals of conservation biology are presented, the social/cultural dimensions of the issue will be emphasized.
   Sustainable Communities
The concept of sustainability has driven many national and international policies. More recently, we have become aware that unless we physical build and rebuild our communities in ways that contribute to sustainability, making progress toward that goal is unlikely. It is equally important to recognize the social aspects of sustainability. In addition, it is at the local level that the goals of equity (a key consideration in community sustainability), most often achieved through citizen participation and collaborative processes are most easily realized. This course will broaden students understanding of the concept of sustainability, particularly the concept of social sustainability. This course focuses on sustainability as a way to bring light to the connections between natural and human communities, between nature and culture, and among environmental, economic, and social systems. Working closely with local organizations, students will explore the applicability of theoretical concepts.
   Clean and Renewable Energy Systems and Sources
This course covers the first principles and fundamentals of clean and renewable energy systems and sources. Various quantum-mechanical and electromagnetic devices and systems will be analyzed, designed and examined using software and CAD tools. Topics include: geothermal, hydro, nuclear, solar, wind, and other energy sources. Societal, ethical, economical, and environmental aspects of nanotechnology-enabled clean energy and power are also discussed.
   Green Energy Systems and Lab
   Solid and Hazardous Waste Management
An examination of strategies and technologies to move an organization toward environmental sustainability, including resource use reduction, material substitution, process and product modification, and waste minimization; and for handling and managing wastes including treatment, storage, transport, and disposal storing solid and hazardous waste. Associated environmental impacts, regulatory concerns, technical feasibility, and costs are considered.
   Industrial Wastewater Management
This course investigates characteristics and sources of industrial wastewaters, related environmental impacts, regulatory implications, and technical considerations of current treatment and disposal methodologies. Students learn to identify appropriate methods, technologies, and sequences for source reduction, treatment and pretreatment, direct discharge, and management of treatment residuals.
   Social Responsibility and Environmental Sustainability
   Air Emissions Management
This course will present an overview of industrial air pollution management, its sources, methods of reduction, control, and management. Students will become familiar with the history of air pollution, the chemistry and effects of pollutants, regulations and standards, and control technologies as well as developing analytical and quantitative skills necessary in air emissions management decision-making.
   Engineering and the Developing World
This course helps students develop a system of holistic thinking about engineering problems which includes the natural environment, humans as individuals, economics, culture, institutions, policies, and civil society. Topics include research, design, dissemination, and evaluation techniques of the Design Thinking mindset, comparison of competing economic viewpoints that influence policies related to development, and evaluation of technology project case studies for triple bottom line sustainability. The course will also include an extensive experiential learning component utilizing interactive discussions and games with opportunities for reflection and team project work. The course project may lead to ideas that can be developed into future capstone projects.
   Design for the Environment
This course will provide the student with systematic approaches for designing and developing environmentally responsible products. In particular, design trade-offs will be explored.
   Contemporary Issues: Energy and the Environment
This course introduces students to contemporary technologies in a specific field of mechanical engineering. In the process of exploring these technologies, the course teaches and applies skills related to communication, economic analysis, ethical analysis, and explores the positive and negative effects of technologies on our society and environment. Specific attention is focused on current events both domestically and internationally.
   Photovoltaic Science and Engineering
This course focuses on the principle and engineering fundamentals of photovoltaic (PV) energy conversion. The course covers modern silicon PV devices, including the basic physics, ideal and non-ideal models, device parameters and design, and device fabrication. The course discusses crystalline, multi-crystalline, amorphous thin films solar cells and their manufacturing. Students will become familiar with basic semiconductor processes and how they are employed in solar cells manufacturing. The course further introduces third generation advanced photovoltaic concepts including compound semiconductors, spectral conversion, and organic and polymeric devices. PV applications, environmental, sustainability and economic issues will also be discussed. Evaluations include assignments and exams, a research/term paper on a current PV topic.
   Alternative Energy
A technical introduction to alternative energy systems in the context of energy economics and conventional energy sources. Topics include solar thermal, PV, wind, ocean current and tides, geothermal, biomass, and fuel cells. Project in the course will allow students to develop and test an alternative energy system, component or device. Course is intended as first course in alternative energy for MET students.
   Plastics Manufacturing Technology
The course introduces fundamentals in plastic materials and processing technology to manufacture various plastic products in plastics industry. The course emphasizes new materials and process selections for engineering applications and design.
   Plastics Product Design
The study of design guidelines for plastic products based on the interrelationships between design, the material selected, the manufacturing process selected, and the tooling to be used.
   Renewable Energy Systems
   Packaging Sustainability and the Environment
Consideration of packaging in a social context. Factors that enhance secondary use, recycling, recovery of resources, and proper disposal are discussed. Package design in relation to solid waste disposal and materials and energy shortages are considered. Other topics of interest are discussed. Primarily a discussion class for senior students. Open to undergraduate non-majors.

* Students majoring in industrial engineering must complete an alternative course.