Teaching Materials in the context of Sustainable Development

Workshop for Educators of Materials Science, Engineering and Design

Venue: Materials Weekend, Warsaw, Poland (preceding EUROMAT)

Date: Saturday, September 19, 2015

Time: 14:00 - 16:30


You will need a computer running Microsoft Windows to practise exercises with the EduPack software

The purpose of this workshop is to:
  • Find out how educators can incorporate Sustainable Development in their curricula
  • Discover how we can best teach this complex subject in a rigorous but engaging way
  • Learn from the experience of other universities such as University of Cambridge, Barcelona (UPC) and University of Illinois
  • Have fun discussing an important topic and seeing many sides to an issue.

Introducing students to this complexity is a challenge, but so important if we want engineers and scientists to influence policy decisions that will affect our future. The aim is not to define a single metric or index of sustainability; rather it is to improve the quality of discussion and debate on projects that claim to be sustainable developments.


This workshop enables educators to go through a five-step methodology for analysing Sustainable Development articulations in the context of Materials. This methodology is described in detail in the white paper by Mike Ashby and Didac Ferrer, "Materials and Sustainable Development", which can be found on Granta's Teaching Resources Website.

It is also described in Mike Ashby's new book, "Materials and Sustainable Development" (2015). The workshop will use a case study to show the application of the methodology.


The workshop will introduce the methodology and resources to support teaching Sustainable Development concepts. The participants are expected to have a general knowledge of Engineering and/or Science. The methodology can be used in teaching interdisciplinary courses with politics, business and engineering students working together. The resources have been developed by Granta Design in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, Barcelona (UPC) and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. The estimated duration is 2.5 hours. You will need a computer running Microsoft Windows to practise exercises with the software provided.

A "sustainable development" is one that contributes in an equitable way to human welfare, doing so in a way that minimizes the drain on natural resources, complies with the rule of law, and is financially viable. Many  civil,  commercial, government, and academic projects claim to do this, and many of them have implications for materials consumption and use e.g. developing biopolymers, subsidizing electric cars, and requiring photo-voltaic (PV) panels on new residential buildings. We refer to them as "articulations" of sustainable development. But how are they to be assessed? There is no simple, "right" answer to questions of sustainable development. Instead there is a thoughtful, well-researched analysis of a proposed articulation that recognizes the concerns of stakeholders, the demands these articulations create for materials and energy, the economic, legal, and social constraints, and their environmental legacy.

About the instructors

Dr Tatiana V Vakhitova, Granta Design
As a member of the Education Division, Tatiana contributes to teaching resources development in the area of Sustainable Development. She holds a PhD in Engineering from the Centre for Sustainable Development and an MPhil from the Land Economy Department (University of Cambridge). Tatiana has teaching experience, working as a Teaching Assistant for the Engineering Management Division at the University of Cambridge and being a supervisor for students at the Judge Business School, as well as the Engineering and Land Economy Departments (University of Cambridge).

Dr Pippa Newby, Education Account Manager, Granta Design
Pippa holds a PhD from Imperial College London on Multi-functional biomaterials for bone tissue engineering as well as a MPhys in Physics from the University of Kent, including a master’s project in Optical Coherence tomography. She has been a laboratory demonstrator, supporting first year material science students with their maths studies, tutoring at a range of levels, and she has taken part in various outreach programs including space school, cool physics and forensic crime labs.