Red Rocks Community College launched the Red Rocks Institute for Sustainability in Education (RISE) to turn big concept ideas – innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability – into educational activities that would prepare students for careers in the 21st century.
“RISE helps students make connections between coursework and careers through hands-on learning that is relevant to the real world,” says Liz Cox, RISE Director.
This semester, RISE sponsored a new project-based course Design for Engineering Professions. The course is an introduction to engineering, design and sustainability. In addition to learning about different fields of engineering and engineering design software, students are practicing design for an aquaponics system at the RRCC greenhouse.
According to aspiring engineer Daysha Brooks, “I was interested in this course because I was unsure if engineering was the right field for me. This class was the perfect opportunity to get a realistic view of this career.”
The course idea was driven by student interest. RRCC student and engineering club president Tim Egnoski claims that RRCC students are looking for more opportunities to explore engineering as a career. “Many students come to Red Rocks for excellent preparation to transfer to 4-year universities, especially the Colorado School of Mines. However, many lacked the important information about the roles of engineers. This course is trying to help students make sound educational or career decisions.”
Jeremy Beard, an alumnus of Colorado School of Mines and course instructor, helps students make connections between the math and science classes, becoming an engineer, and making a difference for sustainability.
“I’ve been amazed at how students have responded to the course and guest speakers. Students arrive early and stay after class to interact with our speakers. There’s a lot of interest among students to better understand the engineering profession.”
Students are organized into interdisciplinary design teams to propose an aquaponics system. A visit to the Growhaus in Denver gave students an opportunity to engage with local business owners Tawnya and JD Sawyer of Colorado Aquaponics.
Next semester the class will transition from design to build, giving more opportunity for hands-on learning. Liz Cox says that while this course is important to get students motivated to study engineering by also focusing on sustainability students can see how engineering is socially relevant. “Our goal is to give students a chance to practice ‘learning by doing,’ and see how engineering is important for society.”