465190 Educate Matlab in Chemical Process Control Using Flipped-Classroom Modules

Thursday, November 17, 2016: 9:24 AM
Continental 2 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Xianhua Li and Zuyi (Jacky) Huang, Department of Chemical Engineering, Villanova University, Villanova, PA

Process modeling and control techniques play an essential role in improving process efficiency, product quality and process safety in chemical industry. The education of process modeling and control, on the other hand, is challenging as the related courses like Chemical Process Control are math intensive. MATLAB Simulink has been proved as an effective tool to educate college students with modeling techniques, as it provides a friendly user-interface in which students can use the block modules to build mathematical models and perform simulation. However, no flipped-classroom approach has been developed to educate students MATLAB Simulink in solving process modeling and control problems in chemical engineering. Since flipped-classroom approaches allow students various chances to access the lecture videos, it may facilitate students’ learning in both programming skills in MATLAB Simulink and the process control techniques. In this work, we developed three flipped-classroom modules that covered the following skills in process modeling and control: 1) simulation of ODE model in chemical engineering; 2) operation of Laplace transform and transfer functions; and 3) design and analysis of closed-loop feedback systems and PID controllers. Accordingly, eleven examples and thirteen videos were developed to cover the aforementioned skills that are essential to process modeling and control in chemical engineering.

The inverted-classroom approach was implementation in the following steps for each of the three teaching modules: 1) the videos were sent to students to watch one week before the lecture; 2) a quiz was given at the beginning of the lecture to make sure the students did watch the teaching videos; 3) a question & answer section was given to clarify students’ questions on the teaching videos; 4) the students were required to reproduce the MATLAB programs shown in the teaching videos in class and turn in their work by the end of the lecture; 5) students was given another lecture time to do homework and the instructor answered students’ question in class; 6) the instructor graded students’ homework and gave suggestions for students to improve their programs.

At the end of each teaching module, especially after the graded homework was given back to students, one anonymous survey was given to students. Fifty senior students taking the course Chemical Process Control in Spring 2015 at Villanova University participated in the surveys. Each survey included three sections: Section 1 was used to evaluate the improvement of students’ knowledge in process control and modeling and their skills in MATLAB Simulink; Section 2 was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the flipped-classroom approach in facilitating students’ learning; and Section 3 included two open-ending questions for students to list the aspects they like the inverted-classroom teaching approach and prove suggestions for further improving the teaching modules. All these surveys were in the form of scale survey questions.

On the basis of students’ answers in surveys, the two-sample Kolmogorovv-Smirnov statistic method was used to analyze the data. The results indicated that students’ knowledge in process modeling and control taught in this course was improved after they took the training. In particular, the average for student’s knowledge levels before taking the teaching modules was around or below 3 out of 5, while the average rose above 4 out of 5 after they finished the teaching modules and homework. This means that the implementation of the process modeling and control knowledge in MATLAB enhanced students’ understanding the knowledge taught in the classroom. The results also showed students’ ability in using MATLAB to simulate ODE models, perform Laplace transform, and design PID controllers was significantly improved. Specifically, students evaluated their MATLAB modeling skills rose from below 2 to above 4 out of 5 after taking the teaching modules. In Section 2 of the surveys that include six questions on the effectiveness of the inverted-classroom approach to improve students’ overall learning and ability to solve process modeling and simulation problems, the degree for students’ agreement with the effectiveness of the inverted-classroom approach generally rose from around 3 to 4 after they took the designed teaching modules. As for opening questions in Section 3 of surveys, the aspects students most liked the inverted-classroom approach include: 1) they were able to watch the videos repeatedly at the time and pace convenient to them; 2) the instructor was able to answer their questions in homework immediately in class; 3) the videos offed another chance for them to understand the concepts introduced in the in-class format from the perspective of MATLAB simulation. The aspect students suggested for further improvement was that some of them mentioned they spent more time than the one for the in-class format. These survey results generally indicated the designed flipped-classroom approach did facilitate students’ knowledge levels in process modeling and control techniques and improve students’ skills of MATLAB Simulink simulation for chemical processes.

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See more of this Session: Active Learning and Teaching Large Classes
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