Encouraging Engineering Students to Question Technological Solutions for Complex Ecological and Social Problems

  • Sabine Pongratz
  • André BaierEmail author
Part of the World Sustainability Series book series (WSUSE)


Sustainability in the curriculum of engineering students is either ignored or solely focuses on technological solutions. As the UN Rio+20 debate and its focus on Green Economy shows, there is a strong demand for technological innovations as a remedy for ecological destruction and as pathway to poverty eradication. Consequently, the predominant belief in technological progress is held up through technicians as well as a society wishing for easy technological solutions for complex ecological and social problems. Taking this into account, this paper outlines a course design that promotes socially and ecologically responsible engineering through a variety of alternative teaching methods. Engineering students acquire the competence to unveil the complex interdependency of their social, political, ecological and economic surroundings. This includes the consideration of different values, interests and needs within a global perspective as well as within one class(room). The course design encourages democratic decision-making not only to solve but also to define problems within the course itself and moreover outside of the classroom. This method is applied in order to adequately respond to the specific needs of users and to cooperatively develop technologies which are socially useful, locally adapted, durable, repairable and recyclable.


Engineering education Sustainable development Green economy Democracy Society nature relations 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Transport SystemsTechnische Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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