Overview

Project status: Completed

Education resources

The resources developed in this project are now freely available to be used by engineering educators. We welcome you to access and use these resources in your teaching programs.

Project background

Energy efficiency is widely recognised as the simplest and most cost-effective way to manage rising energy costs and reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, while efforts are made to significantly increase energy from non-fossil sources. Promoting and implementing energy efficiency measures across multiple sectors requires significant development and advancement of the knowledge and skills base in Australia, and around the world.

Scope

Engineering has been specifically identified as a profession with opportunities to make substantial contributions to a clean and energy-efficient future. In 2013 the Department of Industry commissioned a consortium of Australian universities to collaboratively develop four innovative and highly targeted educational resources on energy efficiency assessments, for use within engineering curricula, spanning introductory to advanced knowledge and skill development. The resources had to cater to all nine engineering disciplines recognised by Engineers Australia:

  • biomedical 
  • chemical
  • civil
  • electrical
  • environmental
  • information technology and electronic engineering
  • mechanical
  • mining and metallurgy
  • structural.

Outcomes

As a result, this project delivered four highly innovative and pedagogically progressive resources for immediate inclusion within engineering undergraduate programs in Australia, and a strategic engagement report including a good practice guide to influence accreditation and curriculum renewal practices.

Read details

Grantor

Department of Industry

Research leader
Research team
QUT External collaborators
Organisational unit
Lead unit Science and Engineering Faculty
Start date
1 July 2013
End date
1 December 2014
Keywords
energy efficiency, assessments, education resources, engineering education, open source curriculum design, collaborative curricula development, national initiative

Contact

Contact Dr Cheryl Desha for more information.

 

Details

The project was conducted nationally over four stages by a consortium of six universities, between July 2013 and December 2014. The scope was broad and ambitious with a modest budget, involving six 'energy efficiency education' leaders among Australia's 34 universities offering engineering undergraduate programs.

The deliverables (education resources) were based on four years of groundwork led by the former Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, then the Department of Industry, to build capacity within a key profession involved in securing energy efficiency improvements in Australian industry.

Evaluation of flat packs and multimedia bites

To conduct an ongoing evaluation of the flat pack and video resources:

  • feedback was taken from students and project consortium members
  • comments were welcomed from technical and educational experts in the field
  • end-user reviews of the flat-packs were conducted with a representative from each discipline covered in the Energy Efficiency Education Resources for Engineering (EEERE) project (UA). 

Reviewers firstly watched the video related to their discipline, and then reviewed and considered both the introductory flat pack and their discipline flat pack in an interview, where they discussed the lecturer perceptions and reactions to different content. 

Comments about how the material can be expanded in future included the opportunity for simulations to be used to bring the content alive and show how systems are affected by efficiency gains, and the potential inclusion of mock exams and quizzes. While feedback was very positive, some further formatting and audience-related suggestions were made to improve the documents, which have since been incorporated into the resources.

Evaluation of deep dive case studies

UOW academic staff with expertise in software development and energy efficiency and sustainability developed two case study-based activities for undergraduate engineering students. A framework was developed for each case study, which were submitted to the consortium to ensure the proposed case studies would complement the project and provide the desired coverage. 

Following initial feedback from the consortium, case study 1 was to cover content directly relevant to civil, mechanical and process engineers, including:

  • commercial building design
  • building services
  • HVAC systems and mechanical design.

 Case study 2 was to cover content directly relevant to electrical, mechatronic, and process engineers, including:

  • electrical distribution
  • electrical energy efficiency
  • design of variable speed drives for energy efficiency.

Key considerations 

Subsequent recommendations were sought from the consortium, UOW industry partner organisations and end users throughout the remaining stages of the project in order to optimise the development of materials. 

One of the key recommendations was to ensure that the case studies were suitable for: 

  • varying levels of undergraduate student technical expertise (first to final year)
  • non-discipline specific audiences, e.g. environmental engineering. 

Therefore the case studies were arranged into a three-leveled framework: each level of the deep dive case studies represents a different topic area and degree of technical expertise to comprehend or complete the activity.

It was decided that rather than using powerful, specialised software packages, the case studies should utilise a readily available tool (Microsoft Excel) which is already embedded into most learning institutions and engineering practices. Students would already have the skills to manipulate data entry, review or modify calculations, and easily be able to present output data in class and in assignment exercises. 

UOW developed a draft version of the first deep dive case study for submission and review by the consortium and the Commonwealth. Only case study 1 and its supporting documents were developed for draft submission due to resource limitations. Feedback from the Commonwealth was limited due limited resources.

Case study 1 was piloted to engineering and asset management students enrolled in 'Sustainability for Engineers (ENGG941)' at UOW as part of an assignment task. Anonymous feedback was taken from a sample of the 180 students about usability, improvements and learning outcomes achieved, and was used to improve the software and supporting documents for both case studies. 

The case studies were also presented to focus groups of undergraduate and research students, and educators at UOW and the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre for additional feedback and improvement. The case study 1 software platform and supporting resources were modified again to incorporate the focus group's feedback. At this stage the development of case study 2 also progressed to a conceptual draft software platform stage (Microsoft Excel spreadsheet) with supporting materials.

Evaulation of virtual reality experience

A group of around 30 La Trobe university students enrolled in the unit 'Environmentally Sustainable Design 3' were introduced to the virtual reality experience software in class over a period of five hours. They were required to evaluate the performance of a building using the virtual reality software and DesignBuilder®, which is used by building engineers to calculate energy consumption of proposed and existing buildings.The formal evaluation of the software was carried out by Dr Colin Hocking, whose expertise in the evaluation of pedagogical programs for sustainability were utilised to interview five groups of about six students.

The evaluation strategy for the virtual reality experience project comprised several requirements and components: 

  • articulation of the overarching motivation and required outcomes of the project
  • the establishment of a hierarchy of learning outcomes
  • specific student learning outcomes
  • activities that facilitate the learning outcomes
  • protocols for evaluation.

Key considerations

Preliminary results of the evaluation show:

  • the virtual reality software enables students to become familiar with practical methods of improving the energy efficiency of buildings; it was easy for students to determine the effects of shading windows on energy efficiency 
  • the software provides results with far less effort than required when using professional software such as DesignBuilder®, however it should be noted that the experience is designed to engage students and therefore lacks the generality of professional software programs 
  • the software would be pedagogically useful if it were introduced into the class before the professional software, as this would provide a context for the more detailed analyses that they ultimately perform. 

The formal evaluation of the software is currently being developed for publication in the education literature and presentation at conferences.

Evaluation of workshops

The resources and strategic engagement report were also informed by three consultation workshops with project partners and industry stakeholders in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in 2013. At these workshops, participants confirmed the need for urgent capacity-building in energy efficiency assessments, accompanied by clear guidance for any resources developed, to readily incorporate them into existing courses and programs.

Industry also confirmed three key graduate attributes of priority focus for these education resources, comprising the ability to:

  • think in systems
  • communicate between and beyond engineering disciplines
  • develop and communicate the business case for energy efficiency opportunities.

Evaluation of strategic engagement report and good practice guide

The project delivered a strategic engagement report including a good practice guide for decision-makers in the education sector, to foster energy efficiency education within engineering curriculum.

The resources and strategic engagement report were developed with reference to a 2012 investigation into engineering education funded by the Australian Government's former Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (RET).

Feedback was obtained through:

  • notes from the national stakeholder engagement workshops
  • comments made by interviewees during video production
  • consortium review including pedagogy and technical experts, and network leaders.

Key feedback was received and used to refine and improve the report and good practice guide.

Partnerships

On behalf of the consortium, we'd like to thank our project partners for their continued commitment to building capacity in delivering sustainable solutions, and the federal government for funding the initiative. In particular: 

Education resources

The project delivered a set of targeted energy efficiency education resources, including:

  • 10 'flat packs', which are supportive teaching and learning notes (one for each of the nine key engineering disciplines, and one introductory pack), developed by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the University of Adelaide (UA)
  • 10 short 'multimedia bites' (videos) to accompany the flat packs, with supporting material for teachers
  • two 'deep dive case studies' including worked calculations, developed by the University of Woolongong (UOW)
  • a 'virtual reality experience' that forms an energy efficiency assessment, developed by Victoria University (VU) and La Trobe University
  • a strategic engagement report including a good practice guide that aims to influence accreditation and curriculum renewal practices
  • a series of workshops and review-based activities to evaluate these resources.

These resources are freely accessible and we encourage engineering educators to explore them, and incorporate them into teaching programs. Contact Dr. Cheryl Desha with any feedback or questions.

Flat packs

10 sets of lecture and reading notes (flat packs) were developed by the University of Adelaide with support from QUT. A flat pack was developed for each of the key engineering disciplines as well as one introductory resource:

Multimedia bites

Each of the flat packs have an accompanying multimedia bite. These 10 short videos were developed by QUT and the University of Adelaide, and address why and how we do energy efficiency assessments. The multimedia bites also have supporting materials for teachers.

Deep dive case studies

Two deep dive case studies were developed by the University of Wollongong, and include worked calculations for your use

Case study 1: Building energy use analysis and system design for energy efficiency and sustainability resources:

Case study 2: Heavy industry electrical energy use and system design for energy efficiency and sustainability resources:

Virtual reality experience

A 3D virtual reality experience was developed, where the user can conduct an energy efficiency assessment.

Engagement strategy and good practice guide

QUT developed a strategic engagement report which includes a good practice guide that aims to influence accreditation and curriculum renewal practices.

This resource can be used as a reference document by engineering deans and accreditation panels. It describes current practice to embed energy efficiency into the curriculum in the context of the Engineers Australia Stage 1 Competency Standard: