Our world continues to face growing environmental concerns around sustainability and there is a strong desire amongst many to help protect our planet. The global community is looking for ways to help solve these real-world issues to create a more sustainable future for generations to come.
March 4 is World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development, focusing on engineering innovation for a more resilient world. Dr. Marjan Eggermont, Schulich professor and associate dean, sustainability, is optimistic that the Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Systems Engineering will help mitigate current challenges facing our environment.
“We have finite resources on this planet, and we are exceeding planetary boundaries related to environmental pollutants and fresh water. We need a shift to protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services, to engineering that meets the needs of all within the means of the planet,” says Eggermont, BA’91, BFA’96, MFA’98, PhD’18.
The major will address key concepts in systems thinking, modelling and learning to design for a circular economy – “in essence, really changing the system. A paradigm shift is needed in engineering and the rest of the world,” says Eggermont.
“Climate change is a very serious issue, and I think more and more people are starting to realize this…and I hope more and more students are starting to be aware that they can actually be an active participant in fixing some of these things.”
Sought-after skills required to meet industry demand
As industry shifts its focus to sustainability, demand is high for engineers with the knowledge and skill set needed to implement and improve sustainable engineering practices. Eggermont believes the sustainable systems engineering major offers a great opportunity for students to leave their mark on creating a healthier planet for tomorrow.
“Lots of companies that are going to be hiring engineers are going to need people who include sustainability and sustainable systems within their work, so it will be very beneficial for students to go into the program,” says Madison Walker, a first-year engineering student who is excited to enrol in the major.
I want to be a part of something that is actually helping our world and I know that my work every day is going to be really important to everybody in the world…sustainability is really important to me…and it affects everybody.
In essence, “Everything you have to do, you have to use energy, and making it a sustainable thing is the ideal way to go because, in the near future, we won’t have enough resources to continue living the way we already do,” says first-year engineering student Nicolas Leo Moreira, who is also looking to enrol in the major.
Growing up in Brazil, Moreira took an early interest in sustainability. “Since I was a little kid, I always wanted to work with clean energy,” he says. Recalling a time when he and his family went to visit a beach, he distinctly remembers his first encounter with sustainable systems engineering.
“I remember there was a wind farm and I just remember seeing the big turbines and being very excited about it, and ever since I’ve always wanted to work with these types of clean energy as I think they are the future and the present.”
A robust program
Eggermont says the curriculum embedded in the major has a lot to offer. Students who enrol in it can look forward to collaborating with other like-minded individuals who share their passion for the environment. They will also be exposed to off-campus hands-on learning experiences as “it is important to be in the world and experience real scenarios.”
Students will visit an urban farm in Calgary to explore farming in the city and take a field course at the Kluane Lake Research Station to understand how cold climates affect sustainable energy and food in remote communities. The major also features an Indigenous Knowledge Systems course that will have a land-based learning component in Kananaskis.
As we celebrate World Engineering Day, let’s take time to reflect on how we all play a part in building a more sustainable future. “To me it’s an exciting and optimistic program full of hope,” says Eggermont.