Environmental collaboration extends reach

Jul 28, 2006

The Kettering Industrial Ecology Team (KIET) extends its work and impact through the development of a new student organization, speaker series, new course, a $50,000 pollution grant, and national conferences and publications.

Cigarette butts on the dirt shoulders of local roads. Heaps of black garbage bags tossed into abandoned lots of American cities. Foundries heaving thick clouds of exhaust from soot-stained stacks like old men struggling to expel cigar smoke from weathered lips.

The images require little translation: our environment is clearly struggling to maintain her health in the face of increasing human neglect. Unlike many countries around the world, the United States languishes far behind in reducing industrial emissions. Even basic laws associated with individual pollution such as throwing a cigarette butt on the ground are rarely, if at all, enforced. And as most U.S. environmentalists know, our current presidential administration tends to cast a weary eye toward complaints regarding the country's environmental policies, or lack thereof.

But companies and organizations that feel some sense of responsibility are working to become more proactive in helping industry recognize the value and importance of remaining environmentally conscious during the lifecycle of a product. The Kettering Industrial Ecology Team (KIET), a multidisciplinary group of researchers and industry professionals, is one such organization examining environmental issues in product design and manufacturing. In 2005, the group won a three-year, $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create a course that educates students about environmental awareness during the engineering development process for products and since then the group has made tremendous progress in its efforts to address environmental considerations in engineering.

The course-IME 540: Environmentally Conscious Design and Manufacturing-will be open to seniors from all majors for the winter 2007 term as an elective. This offering emulates Ford Motor Company's Partnership for Advanced Studies Program course titled Closing the Environmental Loop, which helps students investigate how industry is changing in response to today's environmental problems. Kettering's course will utilize professors from Industrial and Mechanical Engineering, as well as Business, Liberal Studies and Chemistry. Currently, the IME 540 is under development with individual professors working to create their portion of the class. To gain valuable student input, Dr. Terri Lynch-Caris '88, assistant professor of Industrial Engineering and the principal investigator for the NSF grant, recently asked IME 454: Senior Design Project students to create a case study for the end-of-life module of the new course. The students recently visited a local landfill and electricity generating company near Birch Run, Mich., to see first-hand what happens to waste products. One idea that generated extensive discussion among the students after their visit was that of harnessing the methane generated from garbage and turning it into electricity.

The ultimate goal for IME 540 course, explained Caris, is to "give students the economic, managerial, ethical, scientific and engineering skills needed to study environmental issues in product design and manufacturing, and develop solutions to these issues."

While the establishment of IME 540 is one big step in this initiative, Caris also said there are other KIET milestones that have occurred over the last year. For example, John Bradburn, a senior environmental project engineer for the GM Worldwide Facilities Group/Global Environmental Programs, will speak to students about this subject Friday, Aug. 4, in 1-817 of the Academic Building at 12:20 p.m. Attendees will receive a free lunch during the discussion, which will address environmental issues during the engineering process.

For Bradburn, KIET is a critical initiative that could positively impact young engineers. "This team brings together academic and manufacturing to enlighten our future engineers concerning the importance of environmental considerations," he said. He also added that these future leaders "will enter into the business world with knowledge of how the environment factors into all business case decisions."

To further support these initiatives, Caris and KIET team member Dr. Jennifer Aurandt, assistant professor of Chemistry, helped Kettering students form a new student organization called Greener Engineering Organization (GEO). This organization helps spread the word to student engineers about the need to consider environmental concerns during engineering processes. According to Kettering Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Senior Kristie Boskey, president and founder of GEO, the organization's principle goal is to "bring awareness to engineers about the importance of environmental impact in design and processes from material selection, to product development, manufacturing, use, and end-of-life disposal. Environmental lifecycle management has become a guide for better business decisions and an important consideration in creating efficient 'cradle-to-cradle' products."

Additionally, Caris also said that the group has been busy presenting their work at various conferences throughout the country. For example, Caris and Dr. Andy Borchers, associate professor of Information Systems and a member of KIET, presented "Aligning Business and Environmental Interests in Engineering Design" at the Industrial Engineering Research Conference in Orlando, Fla., in May. In June, KIET members Dr. Trevor Harding, former professor of Industrial Engineering, Dr. Ben Redekop, associate professor of Social Science and the Thompson Professor of Leadership Studies (also co-principle investigator on the NSF grant), Borchers, Dr. Jackie El-Sayed, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Craig Hoff, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Caris co-authored and gave a presentation titled "Creating A Multi-Disciplinary Course with Industrial Input" at the American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference in Chicago. At the same conference, Harding, Borchers, David Rinard of Steelcase Inc. and Caris presented "The Role of Industry in Supporting Education in Environmentally Responsible Engineering." All of these papers were published in the conference Proceedings and released to members of these associations.

And in July, Caris received a $50,000 Pollution Prevent grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (http://www.michigan.gov/deq) to research an improved filtration process for steel mills and automotive applications. Caris will work with a company called Crystal Filtration in Rochester Hills, Mich. (http://www.crystal-filtration.com/index1.htm). The grant funding will support the salary of a co-op student to work with the company for one-year on this research.

For Caris and other team members, the past year has indeed helped bring more awareness to the work of KIET and communicate the importance of remaining environmentally aware during the engineering and product life cycle. "This has been a very good year for our efforts and I expect that the coming year will be even better," she said.

To learn more about KIET, contact Dr. Terri Lynch-Caris at (810) 762-9859, or via email at tlynch@kettering.edu.

Written by Gary J. Erwin
(810) 762-9538


Save The Date

Friday, Aug. 4, 12:20 p.m.
John Bradburn,
senior environmental project engineer,
GM Worldwide Facilities Group/Global Environmental Programs,
will speak about the importance of environmental
consciousness during the lifecycle of products.
Room 1-817, AB
Lunch provided

Team Members

Andy Borchers, associate professor of Information Systems
Jackie El-Sayed, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering
Trevor Harding, associate professor of Industrial Engineering
Craig Hoff, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering
Terri Lynch-Caris, assistant professor of Industrial Engineering
Ben Redekop, associate professor of Social Science
Vida Fisher, University Advancement
Kristie Boskey, Kettering co-op student
Mary Durfee, Michigan Technological University
Steven Kampe, Virginia Technological University
Susan Powers, Clarkson University
Scott Matthews and Chris Hendrickson, Carnegie Mellon University
Joyce Smith Cooper, University of Washington
Michael Faubert, DTE Energy
John Bradburn, Jerry King, Stella Papasavva, General Motors Corp.
Claudia Duranceau and Paul Poledink, Ford Motor Co.
David Rinard and Brian Scholten, Steelcase
Gabe Wing, Herman Miller
Angie Coyle and Ed Bissel, Delphi Corp.
Garett Francis, DaimlerChrysler Global Engineering Mfg. Alliance