The world today faces many complicated challenges, consider for example the UN Sustainable Development goals. Technology has always been an essential tool for humankind to make progress, but now more than ever it is vital that technology is used wisely.

Unlike more traditional engineering programs, at UCR we connect engineering disciplines with all of the other disciplines UCR has on offer. In addition to technology-related courses, engineering majors are encouraged (and to an extent required) to take courses in other departments. Whether it is ethics, social psychology, political science or earth science, students will learn different ways of seeing and analyzing the world. Interdisciplinary collaboration is the future and for that reason it is not only important that engineers understand technology, it’s important they understand people as well.

Another special aspect of our program is our location. Middelburg and its surroundings directly experience a range of global challenges and local organizations are addressing these issue. For example: our region is below sea level so water security is historically of great importance, local companies are in the process of building large off-shore wind parks, we are close to the largest Dutch national park with a unique maritime ecosystem that is carefully monitored. UCR engineering and local organizations, companies and research facilities are committed to working together to give student experiences in addressing these issues.

In designing the engineering program, our focus in on asking students to create ‘small-scale sustainable solutions’. Small-scale products can be designed, tested and implemented relatively quickly, so students can go beyond basic prototyping. Modern technology allows small products to be highly functional and create a lot of impact. Products should be sustainable in the sense that little or no waste or pollution is created during production, use and decommissioning. Of course it is not always possible to achieve all these goals, but a modern engineer should certainly try!

Starting in Fall 2019 a small pioneering group followed the first engineering courses. Read about their experience here.