The globalized European environment is faced by the challenge to meet the continuously growing worldwide demand for capital and consumer goods by simultaneously ensuring a sustainable evolvement of human existence. A worldwide increase in wealth based on current technologies with their consumption of resources will exceed every accountable social, environmental and economic bound. The manufacturing industry accounts for approximately 16% of global GDP and 14% of the total employment. A strong manufacturing industry can thus be the cornerstone of a Sustainable Development in Europe. Young entrepreneurial engineers motivated to set up sustainable initiatives have to be identified and trained in European universities. They will hence gain the knowledge and skills to expand sustainable engineering to competitive innovations for empowering a global sustainable development. Mobility, multi-locality, and transnational migration are current social developments among the population of the EU induced by the dynamic European economy. The human cohabitation within the European society will become more and more characterized by intercultural and cross-border interactions between the European citizens. This development can be already observed within the activities of European companies. Cross-border project work between different sites as well as transnational cooperation are essential for ensuring the competitiveness in an increasing globalization. Engineers are not only required to have state-of-the-art technical knowledge, but also to apply it in international teams. They have to work with colleagues, suppliers, and clients from different cultural backgrounds, operate as part of a team, and master the challenges of virtual cooperation in specific engineering tasks and within international value chains. Motivated by these needs of today’s globalized European society, a multidisciplinary and intercultural team of master students from four European universities, so-called European Engineering Team (EET), will work together on a joint research project aiming for a sustainable technological innovation. The innovation will be subsequently transferred into a sustainable startup established by the team of master students. The European Engineering Team copes with the challenge of sustainability in engineering science and strongly fosters entrepreneurial thinking. Consequently, this master module provides the competencies required in a dynamic European economy by developing skills for working across disciplines, borders, and cultures in the area of tension between new technologies, social change, ecological responsibility and entrepreneurial opportunities. The partner universities will develop a new course curriculum for the EET based on an innovative teaching and learning approaches. A MOOC about Sustainable Engineering will essentially supplement the EET by supporting the development of the required methodical- and professional-competencies of the master students. In order to effectively disseminate the results of the project to internal and external stakeholders, a guideline for planning and implementing interdisciplinary and transnational teaching and learning activities will be developed including the necessary collaboration infrastructure.
The aim of this intellectual output is to create and successfully implement a new curriculum for a project-oriented teaching and learning course. This course will increase the learning and teaching productivity in education of engineers by establishing an interdisciplinary and intercultural team of students and supervisors from four different European universities. This European Engineering Team (EET) will transnationally work together on sustainable engineering projects supported by e-learning lectures in form of a MOOC. An EET consists of 12 students (3 master’s students from each partner university), the supervisors (professors), and 4 assistant supervisors (PhD/Postdoc researcher). The project work of an EET will include presence phases at each partner university as well as virtual learning phases and will focus on new product and/or process innovations for coping with the sustainability challenge. As last part of the EET, the developed sustainable technological innovation shall be put into practice by establishing a startup. In order to maintain a holistic view on the innovation development, each partner will bring in its specific main competencies.
The outcome of this intellectual output will be a MOOC to provide the required knowledge for the participating students in ETT. The lectures will focus on the challenge of sustainability in its social, environmental and economic dimension. In the social dimension, global and regional social inequalities have to be overcome by increasing the teaching and learning productivity as well as by focusing on the individual well-being throughout all processes of industrial value creation. This approach will help to secure each individuals existence and future perspectives. In the economical dimension, wealth can be realized without increasing the physical resource consumption by selling functionality instead of tangible products and by keeping goods in closed-loop lifecycles. Substituting non-renewables by renewables and avoiding the use of scarce resources must be achieved within the environmental dimension. Engineering innovations as essential catalyst for realizing these approaches will have to be globally accomplished by simultaneously taking into account regional circumstances. As a result, sustainable engineering can make a decisive contribution for bridging the gap between European and emerging countries by equally enabling a sustainable growth for both. The contents of the MOOC will substantially teach this innovative and sustainable thinking.
The outcome of this intellectual output will be a guideline containing standards for planning and executing interdisciplinary and transnational project-oriented teaching and learning activities as well as a web-based platform for providing the necessary online collaboration infrastructure for these activities. The guideline aims to empower organizations to effectively implement own interdisciplinary and transnational project-oriented activities by providing a highly practical-oriented recommendations as well as the necessary infrastructure for running such activities. The guideline is aimed at universities, research and teaching institutes as well as at companies that are interested in establishing project-oriented activities but are currently lacking in know-how and experiences for the realization of an efficient and effective implementation.
This project is funded by the European Union as part of the ERASMUS+ Key Action 2 Strategic Partnerships Programme. It is funded with €402.229,- under the project name “New Culture in Higher Education: Project-Oriented Learning Beyond Borders – European Engineering Teams” and grant no. 2015-1-DE01-KA203-002207 for a period of 36 months.
WHAT: A decentralized renewable energy source that follows the circular economy perspective
WHY: Avoid energy loss in transmission and reduce waste created in manufacturing
Most of our current energy comes from greenhouse-gas-emitting fossil fuels, which will eventually run out. The current renewable infrastructure is heavily centralized, involving long powerlines which lose energy through transmission. It also increases the population's dependence on main energy providers. Small and micro wind turbines fix these problems. They let their users receive decentralized energy, reducing their dependence on pollutive energy providers. Unfortunately, small-scale wind turbines create end-of-life waste, which is unsustainable in a world with limited resources. However, this waste can be recycled and remanufactured into other materials, such as park benches or even new wind turbines. This would reduce the turbines' end-of-life waste. The EET solution aims to create small scale wind turbines that follow this idea.
The EET aims to remodel existing small scale wind turbines to make their parts recyclable and decrease their parts' failure rates so as to increase their efficiency. This would also decrease the amount of end-of-life waste created by these turbines, as higher efficiency means less parts being thrown out. After research, the EET concluded that creating a circular economy-adhering small scale wind turbine was out of the scope of the class. Instead, the EET worked on making these turbines more market-friendly. The team decided that the best solution would be to recycle and reuse spare parts, such as the benches in Figure 1, which are made from recycle wind turbine blades. Additional solutions include increasing collaboration within the manufacturers, collecting more data on small scale wind turbines, renting out wind turbines, and using local retailers to help sell the product.
The EET was successful in finding out how to get more consumers to purchase wind turbines and in developing more research on these turbines. This information can be used to better the turbines' economic and technological viability. This project addresses the UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 of increasing the amount of affordable and clean energy available worldwide (Figure 2). By bettering the marketability of and providing more research on small scale wind turbines, the EET will help increase the global share of affordable clean energy.