Professor Steven Thorpe’s Nanomaterials in Alternate Energy Systems course teaches cross-disciplinary sustainable design
Photo: Amy Jiang, Master of Engineering (MEng) & MSE 558 student
April 29, 2011
In a shadowy classroom in the Bahen Centre, a small group of business-suited students are pitching their designs to a tough panel of judges, who have to decide if their creation is worthy of an investment.
“It’s like our version of ‘The Dragon’s Den,’” said Professor Steven Thorpe (MSE), before the class presentations began. Although the set-up echoes that of the show, the goal is not to invest in just any commercially viable invention – it must also be sustainable.
“Engineers have a unique role. We design the energy systems, the infrastructure, products and technologies that societies use.”
This year, in Professor Thorpe’s class, the students of Nanomaterials in Alternate Energy Systems had to design a portable, collapsing, feasible and zero-emission “hut” that would allow a first nation’s artist to carve year-round in Cape Dorset, Nunavut. The group with the best thought-out design wins.
“Engineers have a unique role. We design the energy systems, the infrastructure, products and technologies that societies use,” said Amy Jiang, CivE MEng student. Jiang, along with teammates Alex Ayers (MSE MEng student), Szymon Januik (MSE 1T0+PEY) and Yuri Savguira (MSE 1T1), won this year’s design challenge.
“One of the first challenges that students will find is that it costs a lot of money to be green, and so they have to figure out how to reduce the cost. And that’s how they start to see that what may be a challenge today, can be viable in the future,” said Professor Thorpe.
MSE 558 is a technical elective in the Materials Engineering curriculum and is also part of the Minor in Sustainable Energy. The course is available to senior undergraduate and graduate students across the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. Read more about the Faculty’s initiatives in Sustainability research and education here.