Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 3 sessions / week, 2 hours / session


Energy – where to get it from, how to use it efficiently, and how to reduce negative environmental impacts from its production, conversion, distribution and use – is arguably the most critical environmental and social challenge facing the globe today. MIT President Susan Hockfield has committed the Institute to embark on an ambitious research and education program aimed squarely at the pressing problem of improving energy management. An important component of MIT’s Energy Initiative is aimed at “walking the talk” on the MIT campus: improving campus energy management to increase efficiency and reduce both costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Energy, Environment and Society” is an opportunity for first-year students to make direct contributions to energy management at MIT and in local communities. The class takes a project-based approach, bringing student teams together to conduct studies that will help MIT, Cambridge and Boston to make tangible improvements in their energy management systems. Students will develop a thorough understanding of energy systems and their major components through guest lectures by researchers from across MIT and will apply that knowledge in their projects. Students are involved in all aspects of project design, from the refinement of research questions to data collection and analysis, conclusion drawing and presentation of findings. Each student team will work closely with experts including local stakeholders as well as leading technology companies throughout the development and implementation of their projects.

Projects are centered on renewable energy, building efficiency, and transportation. Specific project options include:

  • Assessment of MIT wind power options
  • Study of MIT fleets to assess feasibility of increasing vehicle efficiency and switching to alternative, lower-carbon fuels
  • Assessment of energy recovery options for the MIT nuclear reactor
  • Investigation of green building technologies at MIT (i.e. solar thermal, ground source heat pump)
  • Investigation of renewable energy options at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School
  • Assessment of green building technologies at the Bowdoin Community Center in Dorchester Bay

The real-world nature of projects in this class means that they are inherently multidisciplinary. The intensive teamwork is an ideal opportunity to build valuable skills in addressing real-world problems in a structured environment. Student teams will prepare a project proposal and management plan, a design notebook (in electronic format) a technical report, and a public presentation. Students will also submit four short papers, periodic written and oral progress reports, one peer critique, one presentation of reading highlights, and two homework assignments. Class participation is expected.


Grades for the subject will be based on a total of 900 points as follows:

Individual assignments 400 points total
8 Progress reports (15 points each) 120 points
10 Minute oral project briefing 70 points
Participation (group 40 points, class 35 points) 75 points
3 Reflection papers (20 points each) 60 points
Reading highlights 50 points
Thermodynamics Practice Problems 15 points
Personal Energy Calculator Homework 10 points
Team assignments 500 points total
Design notebook 150 points
Project proposal and management plan 100 points
Final report and oral presentation 250 points
Total 900 points


The course is organized into the following four units:

  1. Energy basics
  2. Energy sources, uses, and infrastructure
  3. Community energy project
  4. Presentation and reporting

Project work (Unit 3) was completed throughout the term.

1 1 1.1 Introductions/energy basics

2 1.2 Energy basics (cont.)

2 3 1.3 Energy basics (cont.) Personal energy calculator due
4 1.4 Energy basics (cont.)

5 3.1 Project work Draft of team code of conduct due
3 6 1.5 Climate Progress report #1 due
7 1.6 Energy economics

8 3.2 Project work

Revised team code of conduct due

Rough outline of team project proposal and management plan due

Thermodynamics practice problems due

4 9 1.7 Project work Progress report #2 due
10 2.1 Alternative/renewable energy

11 2.2 Building energy

5 12 2.3 Mobility

Progress report #3 due

Draft of team project proposal and management plan due

13 2.4 Energy conversion

14 2.5 Energy storage/distribution Reflection paper #1 due
6 15 2.6 A systems perspective

Progress report #4 due

Final team project proposal and management plan due

16 4.1 Practicum on public speaking Informal TA check-in on design notebooks
17 2.7 Local energy systems - MIT

7 18 2.8 Local energy systems - Cambridge Progress report #5 due
19 3.3 Project work Informal TA check-in on design notebooks
20 3.4 Project work

8 21 3.5 Project work Progress report #6 due
22 3.6 Social dimensions

23 3.7 Oral briefing; Project work Reflection paper #2 due
9 24 4.2 Practicum on writing for the public Progress report #7 due
25 3.8 Project work Formal review of design notebooks
26 3.9 Oral briefing; Project work

10 27 3.10 Project work Progress report #8 due
28 3.11 Oral briefing; Project work Reflection paper #3 due
11 29 3.12 Project work Progress report #9 due
30 3.13 Project work

31 3.14 Oral briefing; Project work

12 32 3.15 Project work

33 3.16 LAST project work day

34 4.3 Presentation “dry-run” Draft of final report due
13 35 4.4 Refine presentations

36 4.5 Presentation dress rehearsal

37 4.6 Public presentations

14 38 4.7 Teams finalize reports

39 4.8 Evaluation and wrap-up

Final report due

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

notes Lecture Notes
group_work Projects
assignment Presentation Assignments
assignment Written Assignments