(194c) Product [X] –an Ongoing Experiment in Chemical Engineering Sustainability Education Using Project-Based Learning
AIChE Annual Meeting
Tuesday, November 17, 2020 - 8:30am to 8:45am
In our daily lives, consumers interact with chemical engineering originated products such as the drinking straw, plastic cups, grocery bags, water bottles and others. These single-use products create waste problems. Eliminating or replacing these products with a sustainable solution is a complex task. It requires addressing consumer behavior, regulations, cost, mass-production, safety, health and environmental footprint to name a few. Different disciplines are needed to propose a holistic solution from engineering, business, health and social science perspectives. Traditional chemical engineering education focuses on math, science and engineering core theories where interactions with direct consumer-based products are limited. Moreover project-based classes in the traditional curriculum take place in the senior design capstone, which most often assigns to large scale chemical and industrial processes. Product [X] is an ongoing educational experiment in the chemical engineering department at Texas A&M University at Qatar. The project attempts to prepare students to deal with commercial consumer products as part of multidisciplinary teams. The aim is to promote âcircularâ thinking in development and consumption, directly relating to the U.N. Sustainable Goals (Goal 12). At the same time, this project will motivate students to acquire and apply new knowledge outside of the classroom, thus contributing to a holistic engineering experience. Undergraduate chemical engineering students from all levels (freshman to seniors) are encouraged to work in teams with members from different majors to find solutions under the supervision of a chemical engineering faculty member. This student-led-project lasted over two semesters. In the academic year 2019-2020, the challenge was to redesign the ordinary plastic drinking straw, which was invented to eliminate a public health problem and ended up contributing to the plastic waste problem. A work plan is divided into two stages. The first stage started by short pitch presentations to a technical committee, which was followed by the implementation and execution of that plan. The faculty mentors helped in defining scope, feasibility, organizing workshops and connecting teams with stakeholders. The interactions were through face to face and virtual meetings. Currently, two teams selected to work on environmentally friendly prototypes using bio-based raw material and egg-shells. They investigate the synthesis and manufacturing of sustainable, feasible routes in the Middle East. A third team decided to pursue another direction to work on policy related to the case study. Different policy levels are explored from the university campus up to global ones. The planned impact of this educational experiment is to: fill a gap in the study curriculum, encourage self-learning outside the classroom, grow a network beyond the university campus, and encourages innovation through research or entrepreneurship. The students will apply engineering knowledge to define an open-ended problem, identify scale of the proposed solution, assess sustainability of the solution from environmental, social and economic perspectives.