Something that one of my favorite teachers did, that I plan to do in my classes, is have a “reality check” for each overarching topic in his fluid mechanic course. He would present a real life “case study” where a concept in fluid mechanics was applied to solve a real problem. The problems were always less defined than what we did in class, so we had to make assumptions. The only things he gave credit for were the arguments we made for why our assumptions were OK in a given scenario. We ended up just thinking through this real life problem and left the calculations for the more well defined homework and exam problems.
I think this is a good approach because it gets students engaged (they can’t take the “how am I going to use this” stance), it develops higher order analytical skills needed for application of knowledge so they own it, it can be switched up as there are any number of examples for a given topic in a field like Civil Engineering, they can be scaled into class projects of variable size or used as an anecdote during a lecture, and gets students asking questions and involved in discussion in a course that is typically taught as stand and deliver, here are your equations.
Just thought I’d share.