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Toward The Un’s Sustainable Development Goals (sdgs): Conservation Technology For Design Teaching & Learning
Interdisciplinary capstone team projects have provided a more diverse array of student experiences and have been shown to improve a team’s innovation, analysis, and communication. The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide aspirational, human-centered design opportunities for applying engineering practices to real-world technology interventions that aid in programs from public health to wildlife conservation. In this sophomore-level design course, we focused on climate change, the impact of life on the sea, and the impact of life on the land through the lens of conservation technology. Conservation Technology is a relatively new field focusing on the creation of technologies to promote and safeguard sustainable human-wildlife interactions. In this manuscript, we describe the framework for teaching a Conservation Technology project-based capstone engineering course and present observations of monodisciplinary and interdisciplinary team practices. When working in a non-interdisciplinary team, engineers tended to focus only on the design deliverables and missed challenges imposed by policy, biology, and computational requirements. These three challenges are nearly always present in conservation technology interventions. In contrast, the interdisciplinary team was able to better identify the diverse challenges associated with conservation technology intervention. This work in progress paper focuses on the development of an organized curriculum to teach conservation technology to first- and second-year engineers to allow them to work towards more sustainable engineering practices. Universities are working to inject the SDGs into the engineering curriculum, and we believe Conservation Technology may be an ideal fit for combining the engineering design process with the scientific method to discover new types of possible failures in design and create innovative solutions for a sustainable future.