271151 Hands-On Chemical Engineering Demonstrations for Effective K-12 Outreach

Wednesday, October 31, 2012: 2:43 PM
328 (Convention Center )
Colin Young, Ahmed Elmadhoun and Anthony Butterfield, Chemical Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Figure 1: Screenshot of Our Outreach Teaching Module Database.

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Figure 1: Screenshot of Our Outreach Teaching Module Database.
Hands-On Chemical Engineering Demonstrations for Effective K-12 Outreach

Hands on experiments and real-world demonstrations are among the most memorable experiences that science and engineering students will encounter in their education. An effective demonstration can help cement fundamental principles in science and engineering courses and aid students, including those with a variety of learning styles, in securing foundational insights into concepts they might not otherwise find from a traditional lecture.  While such experiences are demonstrably important to student learning, in the field of chemical engineering there remains a need for additional resources and consolidation of teaching modules.

In order to address this need, our department has created an online, searchable database of over 30 hands-on teaching modules (Figure 1).  Each module has a detailed list of materials required, a procedure, a description of the module's career connections, intended learning outcomes, and the theory governing the experiment.  Additionally, assessment questions are provided to help instructors develop a lesson plan, and test the students' retention and understanding of the concepts presented.

Our modules highlight a wide variety of core chemical engineering concepts, and most are able to be addressed through the lenses of multiple chemical engineering courses.  For example, we use an exploding can demonstration to illustrate concepts of flow through an orifice, buoyancy, flame speed, and combustion.  A ping-pong ball positioning demonstration is used to illustrate both drag forces, and process control of an integrating system.  Kinetics, thermodynamics and nanotechnology are demonstrated through our magnetic ferrofluid module.  Furthermore, many of the developed modules have been designed to build upon one another.  For example, biochemical engineering, data acquisition, and process and product design may be illustrated through the use of our algae photobioreactor module, in which a homemade spectrophotometer module monitors cellular growth, culminating in a biodiesel module to produce a useful product.

This resource of teaching modules and our method of collecting, presenting, and assessing them have been successfully used for over two years in both our extensive K-12 outreach program and in various undergraduate courses.  Student and instructor feedback has indicated that this online collection is an effective and engaging tool in meeting the educational mission of our chemical engineering department as well as community high schools. It is our goal that this module database can be used by other departments and expanded upon, providing benefits to students outside our direct sphere of influence. By creating such an easily accessible database, we hope to add to the body of online chemical engineering teaching material and provide educators from across the country with teaching modules which may be used to supplement their lectures and conduct outreach within their communities.

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See more of this Session: K-12 Connections and Advising with ChE Education
See more of this Group/Topical: Education Division