Energy, Society, and the Environment, PSC 320, Syllabus, Winter 2019

Please see main course website for logistics and timeline.

Diversity, Inclusivity, Sustainability: Cal Poly’s mission statement includes “…Cal Poly values free inquiry, cultural and intellectual diversity, mutual respect, civic engagement, and social and environmental responsibility.” Issues of diversity, inclusivity, and environmental responsibility have recently taken on great importance, globally as well as at Cal Poly. As an instructor, I wish to nurture awareness of how our actions affect others, near and far. I strive to maintain a classroom environment in which meaningful dialogue and debate is encouraged. I welcome individuals of all ages, backgrounds, beliefs, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, national origins, religious affiliations, abilities—and any other visible and non-visible differences. In any decision-making process, we will remind ourselves that our knowledge is not complete and that we can benefit from other perspectives that contrast our own. I believe that good problem solving is inclusive, requiring application of empathy, critical thinking, and ethics to all aspects of the problem-solving process. Lastly, I think it’s our

Text: We will use prepared videos and online reading. You are also welcome to buy an energy/society textbook on your own if you like.

Grading: You will be graded based on watching the videos, two midterm exams, a final exam, a group project, and participation in various activities.

Exams: Each midterm counts 25% toward your grade and your final exam counts 40% and can replace up to one lower midterm exam grade. Thus, there is no major penalty for missing a midterm, as this grade of zero will be replaced by the final exam grade. 10% of your grade is your group project. Video and intervention participation has a significant effect on your grade and is explained below.
Activity Section: You are expected to participate in a two-hour activity each week. Students receive guided, hands-on experience and/or field trips that will be tested on the exams.

Videos, Preparing for Class: It is imperative that we come to class prepared. You are required to check videos and other preparation from the daily class schedule on our class website. Video assignments will not be posted on PlayPosit. Please watch the videos on time for every class until the end of the video and answer all the questions. You are graded for answering video questions not on getting them right – so relax, enjoy, learn. If you watch 90% of the videos on time, then you will receive full credit toward your final grade. You will receive half credit for late videos. Your final grade will be lowered by twice the % of the videos that you watch less than 90%. So if you watch 75% of the videos, your grade will be docked (90% – 75%)*2 = 0.3, or about the difference between an “A” and an “A-“. If you watch none of the videos, it will lower an “A” to about a “C”.

Interventions: We will do three self-interventions, where we impose a change on our lives and document the effect. They will each count as two videos.

Exams will be graded A, B, C, D, F, based on ability to communicate knowledge to me. Please notice the inclusion of “I can read and understand”, thus you are being graded not on your answer or even your understanding, but on your communication to me.

D: Correctly identify underlying concepts and societal/environmental context a minority of the time that I can read and understand.

C: Correctly identify underlying concepts and societal/environmental context a majority of the time that I can read and understand; set up computations and express important facts from class material a minority of time that I can read and understand.

B: Consistently correctly identify underlying concepts and societal/environmental context that I can read and understand. Be able to draw from examples in the news and personal experience. Set up computations and express important facts from class material a majority of time that I can read and understand. Make correct use of units the majority of the time that I can read and understand.

A: Consistently identify underlying concepts and societal/environmental context that I can read and understand. Consistently draw from examples in the news and personal experience. Set up and solve a majority of computations and express important facts from class material. Consistently use units correctly that I can read and understand.

F: Does not achieve threshold level for D

Class Work: After you are exposed to the material at home via videos and reading, you will work as a group to discuss policy and solve problems in the homework in class. I may collect some of your group work and grade it, but it will not count toward your final grade.

Big Exams: We will have an exam every week: either a midterm, or a “Big Exam”. Big Exams will be collected, graded, and returned, but the grade does not count toward your final grade. The purpose of big exams is to simulate an exam so you have a clear idea of how the exams will work. We will also try to understand and reign in the test anxiety that challenges to some students.

Problem Sets: Usually due Monday in class. These are graded A,B,C,D,F based on the above criteria. The grade is recorded, but will not be used toward your final grade. Hence, the only incentive to do the homework would be to learn the material for the exams and any other internal motivation such as the good times you’ll have solving problems with your friends, the resilience you’ll gain in the process, and how much you’ll impress people at social gatherings when you can kick around concepts like externalities and the relevance of marginal electricity. I encourage you to hand in your problem set as a group. You can either staple all your papers together (in which case only one will be looked at) or hand in a single problem set as a group. I will not collect late homework. However, you can turn in late homework in the envelope outside my office door. It would be a very good idea to be familiar with class discussions, problem sets, big exams, and activities before each exam.

Group Project: Groups of 3-4 students will do a research project on something related to energy, society, and the environment that interests you. Ideally, you will identify a problem with energy in a home, business, or community and research a solution including the technical, social, and environmental implications. The group must be interdisciplinary meaning there must be one technical student and one nontechnical student in the group. It may involve reading and research, or building and calculating, or doing an experiment or outreach to other people. You will document it with a ~ 5 minute video that you will post on YouTube for the rest of the class to see. In order to receive credit for your project, you need to do your fair share of the work.

Formula Sheets: You are welcome to build your own formula sheet provided it has no more than 50 ideas; or 50 combined formulas and statements. No formulas will be provided to you for exams. I recommend that you start a formula sheet now and add formulas as they appear in the videos. Any drawing counts as 5 ideas.

My Commitment to You: I will do my best to provide you with a planned structure, resources, and activities to learn. I will evaluate you only on criteria that I find foundational (to communicate energy concepts and how they affect our lives) allowing you the freedom to learn in a manner that suits you best. I will do my best to understand your professed needs and help you the best way I know.

My Expectations of You: I expect that you will make decisions consistent with your best interest and your values. I also expect that we will all work toward the well being of our community. I expect that you will respect my time and make the best use of our time together by coming to class prepared. My intention is to help you learn from the resources around you: textbooks, online media, and each other. I expect you to record your questions while you study. I expect to start class with questions related to the reading and videos. If you have a question, please ask it after you have addressed the related resource (video or reading) and consulted others in your group.

Competition: Your performance will be graded not against each other, but rated against the criteria established above. I expect the majority of grades to be “A” and “B”. However, it is possible that all students earn an “A”, and it is also possible that some students fail. Therefore if you help others in your class, it will not be detrimental to your grade. My experience has shown that a positive collaborative attitude is likely to raise everyone’s grade.