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Teaching Design from An Industrial Perspective: The Practical Problems of Practical Problems

Gavin P. Towler, UOP, 25 E Algonquin Rd, Des Plaines, IL 60017-5017

Senior design is usually the course where students get the best insight into the industrial practice of chemical engineering during their undergraduate studies. Most schools make a good effort to ensure that the senior design course provides a realistic experience of working on an open-ended project of practical significance, and many schools rely on adjunct faculty to bring an industrial flavor to the course. Industrial employers have a strong interest in improving the quality of undergraduate education and many are willing to work with universities to enhance the design experience.

There are several problems that instructors commonly encounter when trying to create realistic design projects:

Students usually have a limited background in solids handling, batch processing, multiphase flow, mixing, and other aspects of unit operations that are very important in industrial design and scale-up.

Very few schools introduce students to industry codes and standards and show how these are used to simplify the design process and ensure safe, operable designs.

Students usually have not been taught much about safety, environmental impact and quality control, which have major implications for most designs.

The problem statement must leave room for the students to demonstrate creativity, while ensuring that they have a reasonable chance of accomplishing something significant in a short amount of time with little or no experience.

The students probably are not familiar with computer tools for design and costing, even if these are available on campus.

Based on conversations with industrial colleagues who teach design, and my own experience at Northwestern, the paper will give suggestions on how the design course can better prepare students to enter the process industries.