Engineering for a Sustainable Future
Sustainability implies living well within the ecological limits of a finite planet. The engineers nowadays need to find holistic and effective solutions to protect our fragile planet and meet the needs of a growing human population. The Energy and Environmental Engineering (EEEN) programme at CUHK provides its students with a comprehensive exposure to understand the complexities and interrelationships of energy and the environment.
EEEN is designed for engineering-minded students with aspiration to help make the world greener and sustainable for future generations. The programme leverages on CUHK’s broad academic coverage as a comprehensive research university, and the support of the University’s affiliated entities, including the Institute of Environment, Energy and Sustainability (IEES) and the Institute of Future Cities.
‘Our curriculum is a product of academic collaborations between relevant disciplines in the Faculties of Engineering, Social Science, and Science. Students are trained in a set of courses ranging from energy principles, environmental studies, urban pollutions, to smart building design and control, as well as energy assessment and management,’ said Prof. Xu Dongyan, Director of EEEN.
The programme puts forward an interdisciplinary perspective for learning and understanding the relations and trade-offs between energy and environment, and the ensuing engineering challenges in attaining viable solutions. Students will acquire fundamental knowledge and problem-solving skills in energy principles, technologies, and systems. They also have the option of electing special courses of their interest, leading to the stream designation of:
- Sustainable Energy Technology
- Green Building Technology
- Environmental Engineering
Winnie Liu has just completed her second year at EEEN. She is a nature lover. ‘I joined some green communities and volunteered in a few environmental programmes in high school. The more I learnt about the human impact on nature, the more I felt obliged to protect it.’ Winnie found the engineering and environmental knowledge instrumental in tackling a broad spectrum of energy issues pertaining to renewable, environmental and building technologies. ‘There’re a number of renewable energy harvesting methods. We learnt about the energy harvesting problems encountered by the scientists, and were challenged to explore solutions to address those real-life problems.’
Winnie is impressed by the learning atmosphere of the EEEN community. ‘My classmates are very hardworking and love to contribute creative ideas in group discussions. Besides, the faculty always encourage us to think outside the box to address the pressing environmental issues.’ EEEN students have been active in the faculty-initiated research projects since their second year; these projects often bring them opportunities to collaborate with overseas universities and exchange experiences. Professor Xu added, ‘Our faculty members have strong track records and potential in the latest energy and environmental-related research. Their teaching and project supervision will greatly benefit our students.’
Both classroom teaching and experiential learning are emphasized in EEEN. Since the programme’s inception in 2012, its students have been encouraged to participate in the five-week summer industrial training. Professor Xu said, ‘Our students have been engaging in either summer internship or work-study programme. We also motivate them to take part in regional and international competitions by offering financial support. In 2016, our students collaborated with other engineering students to design a solar car “THE CUE” and won Renewable Energy Capture & Conversion Efficiency Award.’ EEEN will continue to seek such opportunities in collaboration with University entities like CUHK T Stone Robotics Institute and IEES.
EEEN values faculty-student interaction. The programme assigns mentors to all undergraduate students to advise them on their studies and problems they may encounter. The programme has spared no effort in addressing and resolving the issues raised by students in the Staff-Student Consultative Committee. Student representatives are also invited to join EEEN’s departmental meetings and discuss on non-confidential matters.
After the four-year undergraduate training, EEEN students will become well-versed in the current and emerging areas of energy systems, environmental monitoring and control, sensor instrumentation, and smart and green building technologies. Professor Xu said, ‘We envision our graduates will land jobs in the Government, utility companies, energy-related firms, green technology start-ups, government agencies, and the building design and service sector. They can also pursue postgraduate studies in their specialized areas of interest in Hong Kong or overseas.’
Sustainability is a powerful, yet abstract, concept. Engineers need to examine the details of the natural resource and environmental challenges while designing for sustainability. Winnie’s dream is to design green buildings for a more liveable urban environment. ‘I’ll apply the knowledge acquired in the green building technology stream, where I learnt, for example, that natural ventilation and lighting can reduce energy consumption for air-conditioning, ventilation and lighting in buildings.’ Steven K. Robert, author of Computing Across America, said, ‘Art without engineering is dreaming. Engineering without art is calculating.’ At EEEN, one neither dreams nor calculates.
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2018