Introduction to Environmental Modeling: Results from a Three-Year Pilot


A redesigned course employing blended delivery, a flipped format, and modified mastery learning with a buffet approach to assign final grades was used to teach environmental modeling to classes containing approximately 15 dual-level (juniors, seniors, and first year graduate) students pursuing baccalaureate degrees in environmental, civil, or architectural engineering or a graduate degree in environmental engineering. The course introduced "systems engineering" as described by the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), and the course included explicit consideration of the 5-P's, namely: 1) people; 2) planet; 3) prosperity; 4) partnership; and 5) peace as described by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). During the semester, students developed five models, including: 1) a mass balance of the popular game, "Hay Day" by Supercell; 2) taste and odor removal from drinking water using activated carbon for the city of Chicago, Illinois; 3) transferable discharge permits to find the least cost solution for removal of biochemical oxygen demand in the Athabasca watershed of Western Canada; 4) tradeoffs to reduce air pollution and improve ground-level visibility in metro Beijing, China; and 5) improved access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) in developing communities. The construction of each model included ten steps, namely: 1) providing a narrative of the overall problem; 2) identifying important states and relationship with typical values and ranges of states; 3) developing a pictorial representation of the system; 4) listing critical assumptions; 5) using assumptions to reduce model complexity; 6) creating a mathematical representation; 7) implementing a computational solution; 8) interpreting the results of the computational solution; 9) conducting a sensitivity analysis; and 10) describing lessons learned from the modeling exercise. A unique aspect of this course was the integration of Diplomacy Lab from the US Department of State as the subject material for term-length projects, including: 1) using the internet of things to assess threats from dirty bombs; 2) using epidemiology to assess threats from outbreaks of communicable disease arising from populations of co-located prisoners; or 3) using actuarial science to assess climate threats to the fishing industry in the Caribbean.

Meeting Name

126th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Charged Up for the Next 125 Years, ASEE 2019 (2019, Jun. 15-19, Tampa, FL)


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

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Article - Conference proceedings

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© 2019 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jun 2019