Integration of Appropriate Technology into an Alternative Energy Class

Craig Somerton
2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings   unpublished
Introduction For eleven years the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University has taught a project based alternative energy course. The focus of the course is for students to use their background in thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, and electronics to perform predictive calculations for various alternative energy technologies. The concluding assignment for the course has asked students to prepare a one page white paper recommending the implementation of an
more » ... ementation of an alternative energy technology and make a one minute presentation using one overhead. The intended audience is the Secretary of Energy. Recently, there has been significant interest in appropriate technology as seen in the increased activity of Engineers Without Borders [1] on college campuses and the establishment of Engineering for Change (E4C) [2]. Appropriate technology is technology for energy, water, and health that departs from the conventional western technology and is focused on the appropriate use of a developing country's resources, so as to not disrupt its culture and environment. In the last offering of our alternative energy course, we replaced the previous final assignment with one that has an appropriate technology focus. The students were asked to prepare a one page white paper recommending the implementation of an appropriate energy technology and make a one minute presentation for the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This paper presents the background material on appropriate technology that was provided to the students, including an appropriate technology checklist. Some of the more interesting white paper topics are presented. An evaluation of the white papers is included and student feedback is provided. The paper concludes with lessons learned. Background Recently the term Appropriate Technology has become prevalent in the efforts that the developed world is taking to assist developing countries. The term applies to technology for energy, water, agriculture, and health that departs from the conventional western technology and is focused on the appropriate use of a developing country's resources, so as to not disrupt its culture and environment. Further, the technology should be simple and inexpensive to employ and could lead to the development of cottage industries. For most of us that have been involved in bringing alternative energy technologies to the developing world the concept of appropriate technology brings a paradigm shift. No longer should we think about coming into a village installing a $100,000 solar photovoltaic pumping system and then walk away very pleased with ourselves. In addition to maintenance and upkeep issues, for the one village that is helped there are millions of villages left to struggle with their water supply.
doi:10.18260/1-2--21574 fatcat:fepjof5hfnftbl55le6ufrjooe