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Grant to fund innovative student capstone course in sustainable manufacturing

Ray C. Anderson grant recipients
February 06, 2013

Arizona State University's Global Institute of Sustainability and College of Technology and Innovation have received a $60,000 grant from the Ray C. Anderson Foundation.

The nonprofit organization seeks to promote a sustainable society by supporting and funding educational and project-based initiatives that advance knowledge and innovation in sustainable production and consumption. It was founded in 2012 as a legacy to the late Ray C. Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface, Inc., and globally recognized “pioneer for the environment.”

The ASU sustainability project proposed by Chell Roberts, executive dean for the College of Technology and Innovation, and Dan O'Neill, general manager in the Walton Sustainability Solutions Extension Service at ASU, combines two existing undergraduate capstone experiences into an integrated approach for solving real sustainable manufacturing challenges for major corporate clients.

The new capstone course builds on the College of Technology and Innovation’s iProjects, which includes an engineering option. Through the iProjects program, students have the opportunity to engage with industrial sponsors on real problems and challenges. The iProjects program was the recipient of the 2012 Presidents Award for Innovation.

The engineering program with its unique capstone or iProjects focus was recognized by the National Academy of Engineering as one of the top 29 engineering programs in the country that infuse real engineering into its program.

“This year the College of Technology and Innovation is partnering with the ASU School of Sustainability on one or more of our engineering capstone iProjects, which will give students and faculty from the different colleges the opportunity to share best practices in solution generation and prototyping," Roberts said "We recognize that solution generation is broadened when the diversity of the student team is increased. We anticipate that students will learn from each other, sharing culture and best practices and that we will establish long term relationships between faculty as they work together to solve real and challenging problems. This is the epitome of the New American University.”

“The new collaborative capstone experience will combine two disciplines in ways not done before," O’Neill said. "The School of Sustainability will bring faculty and students immersed in critical thinking about the social and environmental impacts of business and the manufacturing process. How do you think through the processes and products to not only reduce or eliminate negative social and environmental impacts, but in fact do more good? They will consider things like the lifecycle of the product, the supply chain required to produce it, and what happens to it at the end of its life.”

George Basile, professor and senior sustainability scientist as ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, will be the primary faculty member charged with building the integrated experience.

"Because sustainability requires new perspectives and new knowledge to inform innovation, education is really the heart and sole of sustainability," said Basile. "This grant, combined with the novel collaboration efforts between the College of Technology and Innovation and the School of Sustainability, gives us the chance to bring together sustainability frameworks and cutting edge solutions-oriented education with all the resources available at ASU and the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives."

“There are so many facets of sustainability, and they’re all important,” said Harriet Langford, Anderson’s daughter. “Manufacturing, improved process engineering and viable pathways to improved economic sustainability were really our father’s ‘sweet spot.’”

“The best way to honor him in our first funding cycle was to identify a few great projects that have the potential to infuse educational research findings directly into sustainable and innovative manufacturing processes,” said Mary Anne Lanier, Anderson’s daughter.

Other schools receiving grants include Georgia Institute of Technology, Auburn University and the University of Southern Mississippi.