Setting the foundations for international and crossdisciplinary learning: The US-Denmark Summer School "Renewable Energy: In Practice"

Tela Favaloro, Bryan M. Jenkins, Martin Lehmann, Chresten Træholt, Ronnie D. Lipschutz, Kurt Lawrence Kornbluth, Michael S. Isaacson

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The grand challenges posed by global climate change, scarce natural resources, and the volatility of the international energy market require targeted action towards finding technologically, economically, and socially viable solutions based on renewable energy generation and sustainable practice. As such, impactful innovation requires skills and interactions beyond that available in traditional, single track curriculum.

The U.S.-Denmark Summer Workshop on Renewable Energy is a unique educational initiative developed by several universities in Denmark and California to address these themes and foster a holistic and creative mind set. The three-week workshop takes place annually, alternating each summer between California and Denmark, and is open to selected students from US and European Universities. The program is preceded by a week of online preparation, where students utilize video conferencing and other tools to facilitate interaction between the international participants and learn more about the communities and technologies involved. A primary focus of the program is experiential learning through diverse and cross-cultural interactions, with participants coming not only from the US and Denmark, but also over a dozen other countries. The program introduces and reinforces a holistic approach to sustainable development by offering access to leading experts in politics, economics, science, and technology in parallel with multi-disciplinary, client-oriented projects. Participants are either senior undergraduate/graduate students and more recently, professionals representing different disciplines. Faculty, mentors, and participants interact daily while exploring currently implemented technological solutions and their limitations through community and industrial site visits, seminars, and real-world case studies. Students apply these learnings by collaborating in bi-national team-based projects performing feasibility studies for specified clients. The close collaboration with local communities, businesses, and industry to provide concrete solutions to an identified problem while engaging across disciplines cultivates entrepreneurially-minded and complex systems thinking necessary for innovation.

Over the eight years of the summer school, a number of lessons have been learned regarding effective program design and assessment. In this proceeding, we will elaborate on these learnings through participant feedback and faculty observations, to articulate a detailed program design that accounts for some of the challenges inherent to multi-national and multi-cultural collaborations with real-world impact.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2017
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event124th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Columbus, United States
Duration: 24 Jun 201728 Jun 2017


Conference124th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
CountryUnited States

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