Real work with real consequences: Enlisting community energy engineering as an approach to envisioning engineering in context

Michelle E. Jordan, Steve Zuiker, Wendy Wakefield, Mia Delarosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This study describes an illustrative case study from a year-round program that positions middle and high school youth to explore the social value of energy systems in their homes, schools, and neighborhoods. Designed to center existing youth assets, interests and values, Community Energy Engineering (CEE) frames engineering as a tool that students can enlist in order to understand and interrogate their local socio-energy system while also acting to transform it. CEE partners with Title 1 schools in Latino/a neighborhoods in the U.S. southwest. CEE situates youth community-based solar energy innovation projects as consequential, evolving in and with historically contingent engineering practices, and shaping and shaped by interactions across multiple contexts. We present our analysis of an asset-based approach to pre-college energy engineering education by following an exemplary project team across 15 months of programming. We used critical design ethnography to address the research question: How do community-centered energy engineering projects organize opportunities for productive disciplinary engagement and consequential learning? Findings are presented through the endogenous, first-person accounts of five youth as they participated in their project, and as they reflected on their participation during interviews. We consider connections to a wider array of cases reported using a sociocultural theoretical perspective on asset-based approaches to pre-college engineering education. We discuss these connections in relation to reciprocity as an asset-based approach to ingenuity and care, as well as two overarching design principles that emerged: (a) real work with real consequences and (b) everyone a learner, everyone a contributor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13
Pages (from-to)231-255
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Asset-based
  • Consequential learning
  • Engineering
  • Engineering design
  • Productive disciplinary engagement
  • Renewable energy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Engineering(all)


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