386615 Enhancing Hands-on Problem-Solving Across the Chemical Engineering Curriculum
Our chemical engineering curriculum contains at its “core” a rigid sequence of required courses that need to be taken in a precise order. Traditionally, this sequence is delivered as a set of lecture-based courses. This means, especially in the junior-year sequence, there is little to no opportunity for hands-on laboratory work to supplement the core engineering, mathematical, and scientific theory. By introducing a deliberately designed series of hands-on activities that increase in complexity as students progress through the curriculum, we seek to improve student ability to make connections between interrelated fundamental theories. The primary objective of this project is to investigate the effects on student learning and retention of knowledge and skills as a result of threading activities through a sequence of required courses.
At our university, one obstacle to successful supplementation of lecture with hands-on activity is a lack of proper equipment. The material used in a sophomore-level experimental methods course is deliberately comprised mostly of household items, so that emphasis is on experimental design. The equipment used in the senior capstone laboratory has a focus on effective writing about complicated theory, and the laboratory space consists of a set of disconnected pieces of equipment to examine one specific aspect of theory from sophomore and junior courses.
We have designed and constructed a customizable, multi-function laboratory apparatus, deliberately designed to allow for the integration or segregation of modern chemical engineering equipment, including pumps and piping systems, heat exchanger, and process control hardware and software. The equipment is used directly in the required chemical engineering laboratory courses, plus as a new component to traditionally lecture-only courses in the sophomore and junior sequences. Modifications are made to each of five courses directly involved in the use of this equipment to make more explicit the connections between important chemical engineering concepts.
We outline here the timeline for implementation of this project, the collection of attitude and assessment data from students in our program, and preliminary results.
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