466087 Enabling Numerical Analysis Calculations within Educational Materials Delivered Via PCs and Smartphones

Monday, November 14, 2016: 8:35 AM
Continental 3 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Michael B. Cutlip, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT; Polymath Software, Willimantic, CT, Mordechai Shacham, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel and Michael Elly, Intel Corporation, Qiryat Gat, Israel

A major educational project called LearnChemE has been underway at the University of Colorado during the last 10 years under the direction of Prof. John L. Falconer involving Chemical Engineering and associated engineering disciplines (www.learncheme.com). The group of faculty members staff involved in this NSF supported project has recently received the 2015 HImmelblau Award of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers for new and novel contributions to computer aids for chemical engineering education. Integration of numerical problem solving has been utilized in many of the concept tests, screencasts and simulations.

User-friendly PC and Android software enabling general numerical problem solving has been under continuing development with PC software first introduced in 1984 under the name of Polymath with the efforts of the first two authors of this paper (www.polymath-software.com). This effort was initially conducted at the University of Connecticut. This overall work received the Himmelblau Award in 2010. Current Polymath related software development continues for Windows PCs and recently for the Android OS is also underway. There is increasing cooperation between the LearnChemE and PolyMath efforts.

This paper will consider current and future opportunities of interaction between current LearnChemE and PolyMath Software groups. Initial considerations are outlined here utilizing current LearnChemE educational materials and available PolyMath software. Additional future possible uses of newly developing software will also be discussed. The application of both efforts to engineering education world-wide will be highlighted. It is also hoped that this work will also be of interest to those interested in developing STEM educational materials (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) involving PC’s and Android smartphones and tablets that can provide resources such as testing, screencasts and simulations that may involve numerical problem solving.

PC Example – Use of Materials from LearnChemE with PolyMath Windows Software

The LearnChemE website has a collection of Student Resources that has a listing for POLYMATH (http://www.learncheme.com/student-resources/polymath). This site provides Introductory Videos that will run on Windows PCs and Android Smartphones and Tablets. Additionally there are currently 13 Example Problems in Kinetics/Reactor Design and four Example Problems in Thermodynamics that will work under Windows and Android devices. Most of these have been created, developed and narrated by Prof. John Falconer.

The example problem in the Kinetics/Reactor Design area titled Multiple Reactions in a CSTR will be onsidered. The use of a split Windows screen will be demonstrated/discussed where the video will be available and executable on the left side and the PolyMath 6.2 software will be available for use on the right side Windows screen. The ability to easily enter the program to enter and solve the material balances for the CSTR will be demonstrated and the advantages of this approach will be discussed.

An additional student challenge to the original problem is will be modify the model for the steady-state problem to accountl for the dynamics of the startup of the CSTR system to steady state. This will use the differential equation solving capabilities of PolyMath. Steady-state and the unsteady-state results will be discussed in this presentation/paper. The option to automatically generate Excel spreadsheets and MATLAB m-files for these two cases will be briefly mentioned.

Smartphone Example – Use of Materials from LearnChemE with PolyMathLite Android Software

The LearnChemE Screencast videos can be used directly on Smartphones. However, PolyMath 6.2 runs under Windows. Therefore Polymath Software has created a PolyMathLite app that has most of the capabilities of PolyMath 6.2, and executes directly on most Android smartphone and tablets. The only major changes in the problem solution code from that used in the PCs is the use of vectors to input data and some special funcions to deal with the various types of regressions.

The use of a simple smartphone with the PolyMathLite app will be demonstrated during the presentation by live use (or screen copies) of of a midsized phone display projection. The exact same set of equations as developed in the Screencast video of the Multiple Reactions in a CSTR problem will be ussed. The major difference between the smartphone and the PC is that one must switch between the paused video and the PolyMathLite problem entry as only one screen can be displayed at a time. The results between the PolyMathLite solution to the steady-stare CSTR and the PolyMath 6.2 solution are exactly the same. If fact, the algorithms in the Android Smartphone app and Windows PC coding are identical.

Use of the smartphone will be demonstrated in the modification of the code to the ordinary differential equations for the student challenge aspect to model the dynamic startup of the CSTR. The dynamics of the concentration within the CSTR are plotted with a separate plotting Android app or using the new Microsoft Excel Android app. All of this will be demonstrated and documented.


This presentation/paper identifies the continuing deliverables from two major educational projects coming from chemical engineering faculty and other academic departments that can combine to promote very positive enrichment activities for our students. Many additional possibilities can be considered for related subject areas. In this era of large class sizes, the educational experiences and capabilities of the individual students can continue to be enhanced. These resources from the two projects that have been discussed can also serve to encourage other STEM disciplines to provide similar educational resources, numerical calculations and other activities in support of classwork or individualized learning. E-textbooks can also be supported by PolyMath and/or PolyMathLite and other calculational software. As Android smartphones become very common among students in developing countries, the educational and problem solving capabilities and products of these two projects can be very important in international chemical engineering education.

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