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Skerlos featured in MconneX 40-minute program on sustainability


College of Engineering – A fire crackles in the woods at night. In the distance, an owl hoots.

“So what is sustainability?” a voice asks, as gloved fingers add more kindling to the fire. “It’s about what we all do together, and it’s about collective action.”

The voice belongs to Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Steve Skerlos, and the scene is from a new video being created as part of a College of Engineering initiative called MconneX.

According to MconneX manager Sandra Hines, the new project will provide entertaining and educational content to the almost 70,000 engineering alumni — content that includes these videos, as well as events and continuing education opportunities — all online and free of charge. The program has started with a series of videos involving engineering students, faculty and industry leaders to keep alumni engaged with the College long after they graduate.

The “MichEpedia” section provides quick snapshots of the College’s cutting-edge research and engineering topics through three- to five-minute videos. The longer programs, like that featuring Skerlos, offer an entertaining yet educational look at topics alumni say are important to them, and feature the knowledge of Michigan Engineering faculty, alumni and experts.

“After analyzing the data from a December 2011 alumni survey, it was clear that there was a lot of interest from alumni to stay informed and involved with the College. The survey showed that they’re most interested in learning about leadership, energy, creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability, all through an online, on-demand format,” said Hines.

Skerlos’ video, an introductory overview of sustainability, presents the challenges posed by technology for sustainability in the domains of climate, air pollution, water pollution and materials/energy. Technology is presented both as instigator of technology challenges and sustainability challenges, along with social considerations, part of the pathway forward to move the economy towards a more sustainable path.

Skerlos researches and teaches environmental systems analysis, eco-design, technology policy and eco-manufacturing. Since 2000, he is Director of the UM Environmental and Sustainable Technologies (EAST) Laboratory. He has co-authored over 50 scholarly publications, and co-founded a start-up company. His research interests are environmental technology policy, the design of “green” products and manufacturing systems, and the development of sustainable water systems. He is co-director of a $2 million National Science Foundation project studying optimal greenhouse gas policies in the automotive industry.

For more information about the MconneX initiative and its free online educational programs, visit

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by the U-M Mechanical Engineering Department) from materials provided by the College of Engineering. Author: Jennifer Judge Hensel ([email protected]) / Original Story:

Faculty featured in this story