270851 Design & Assembly of a Freshman Design Laboratory

Wednesday, October 31, 2012: 9:36 AM
329 (Convention Center )
Anthony Butterfield, Chemical Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Active and collaborative learning environments have been found to increase student conceptual learning, satisfaction with their department, and student retention, particularly of underrepresented groups. However, the majority of chemical engineering departments use such teaching methods minimally until their capstone courses, leaving much of their effectiveness underutilized. To address this problem in our department, we have developed and tested many of the components needed to create an active-learning freshman design laboratory experience.

Students in this laboratory are to collaborate in teams, and, through guided inquiry, achieve a variety of design goals related to basic chemical engineering topics.  To build this course, we have developed and tested several teaching modules geared towards a freshman’s capabilities and needs.  Each module in this introductory lab is meant to act as an anchor point to which students may affix important chemical engineering concepts, and through which difficult theory may be revisited later in their academic career. 

Execution of the design projects are based upon the open sourced Arduino DAQ boards, due to their ubiquity and high degree of capability relative to their costs.  Through this data aquisition platform and with minimal instruction on electrical devices and circuitry, freshmen may design and control various systems and experiments, and their data may be collected, visualized, and analyzed within the environment of their student edition of MATLAB, without the need for additional toolboxes.

Among the modules that have been developed to date are a flow cell spectrophotometer module, meant to ease students into simple design concepts, data acquisition and data analysis, and introduce concepts of reaction kinetics and fluid dynamics.  Principles of heat transfer and cost considerations in design may be introduced with a heat exchanger design module.  Product design may be explored through the dissection of a transdermal drug delivery patch and a related diffusion cell module, to introduce the importance of mass transfer considerations to the chemical engineer.  A total of nine design projects have been created to be used through this semester-long course.  A final project is to be conducted through the last three weeks of the course which may involve several options, including the design of a process using multiple student-built apparatuses from previous modules as building blocks.

This freshman course is also meant to act as a launching platform for effective, evidence-based pedagogy throughout the remainder of our curriculum.  As such, some of the teaching modules have been brought into upper level courses to create active learning projects and address relevant theory with newly-gained sophistication.  These teaching modules have also found use and have been validated within our K-12 outreach programs.

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See more of this Session: Free Forum On Engineering Education: The First Year Experience
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