Students learn about the wonderful and fascinating country of China, and its environmental challenges that require engineering solutions, many in the form of increased energy efficiency, the incorporation of renewable energy, and new engineering developments for urban and rural areas. China is fast becoming an extremely influential factor in our world today, and will likely have a large role in shaping the decades ahead. China is the world's largest energy consumer and the largest producer of carbon dioxide emissions, leading engineers and scientists to be concerned about the role these emissions play in rural and urban public and environmental health, as well as in global climate change. Through exploring some sources of air pollution, appropriate housing for different climate zones, and the types of renewable energy, the lessons and activities of this unit present ways that engineers are helping people in China, using an approach to cleaner, smarter, healthier and more-efficient ways of living that apply to people wherever they live.
Students learn about some of the different climate zones in China and consider what would be appropriate design, construction and materials for houses in those areas. This prepares them to conduct the associated activity(ies) in which they design, build and test small model homes for three different climate zones.
Through an overview of some of the environmental challenges facing the growing and evolving country of China today, students learn about the effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution that China is struggling to curb with the help of engineers and scientists. This includes the sources of particulate matter 2.5 and carbon dioxide, and air pollution impacts on the health of people and the environment.
Students work in engineering teams to optimize cleaner energy solutions for cooking and heating in rural China. They choose between various options for heating, cooking, hot water, and lights and other electricity, balancing between the cost and health effects of different energy choices.
Students learn about five types of renewable energy that are part of engineering solutions to help people in rural communities use less and cleaner energy for cooking and heating. Specifically, students learn about the pollution and health challenges facing families in rural China, and they are introduced to the concept of optimization. Through an energy game, students differentiate between renewable and non-renewable sources of energy.