New course offering utilizes campus as a living laboratory

In Spring of 2016, UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science offered a new honors-level course titled Systems Analysis for Sustainability in Engineered Systems (CCE 3930H), instructed by Dr. Omer Tatari, Ph.D., LEED AP. The 14-week course introduces principles of sustainable engineering, systems and life-cycle thinking, and the development of sustainability metrics and indicators. The course uses dynamic modeling as an experimental platform to study and analyze the dynamics of socio-technical and environmental problems.

What makes this course different from its existing partners is that it recognizes that studying the symptoms of unsustainable business and engineering practices is not enough; it instead utilizes the UCF main campus as a living laboratory to apply their systems knowledge to diverse problems.

Students are first introduced to the concept of mental models and how they affect everything we design from technologies to our mindsets. A handful of discussion topics include the tragedy of the commons, limits to growth, change resistance, and lifecycle cost analysis. Various campus tours and hands-on experience opportunities accompanied lectures on these topics, such as of the 107KW photovoltaic solar generation facility, combined heat and power facility, thermal energy storage facility, campus recycling operations, food waste operations, and active construction sites. In addition, community professionals were invited into the classroom to speak on their subject of expertise such as Dr. Jacques on his book, Limits to Growth, Dr. Reinhart on waste lifecycle assessments, and Mr. David Norvell on university initiatives to reach climate neutrality.

At the semester's conclusion, the students are tasked with a term project on conceptualizing the university’s inherent limiting mental models and causal loop diagrams to devise holistic approaches to enhance campus sustainability. Follow the inaugural group of students from this course on their UCF Living Laboratory experience in the video above.