(277a) Development and Incorporation of Kit-Based Experiments for Instruction of Fluid and Energy Transfer Laboratory Using Online and Hybrid Teaching Platforms
AIChE Annual Meeting
Unit Operations: Experiments, Hands-on Demos and Virtual Labs (In Honor of Deran Hanesian and Angelo Perna's Contributions to Chemical Engineering Education)
Tuesday, November 9, 2021 - 8:00am to 8:18am
Traditional approaches in Chemical Engineering instructional activities focus on the scale-up of small experimental procedures starting at the Chemistry Lab scale, transitioning to pilot-scale experiments in Unit Operations laboratories for the subsequent projection of industrial-scale manufacturing operations. While most of large manufacturing processes have been established by following the aforementioned scale-up approach, Chemical Engineers are nowadays working on a plethora of applications involving multiple scales. Micro and nanofluidic devices combined with temperature control is an example depicting the intrinsic nature of small-scale technologies, but some industrial operations must be designed in the seemingly non-conventional direction thus taking certain processes down to a smaller scale. Most of experiments conducted in Unit Operations laboratories depend on equipment often comprised of various subcomponents and even though partially or fully automated, they will require the physical presence of experimenters due to technical and safety considerations. This is a limitation in the event of interruption of face-to-face instruction such as that originated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, making online instruction highly challenging for laboratory-based classes, especially because of the decreased -or total lack- of hands-on learning outcomes. Motivated by the need of finding alternatives to keep the hands-on component in remotely-assisted classes while facilitating the understanding of fundamental concepts in Chemical Engineering, experimental kits were conceptualized, designed, and created with the objective of having one kit per student that could satisfy the MCS criteria: modular, cost-effective, and safe. Kits were designed to be comprised of various components, having a 3D-printed main device along with external sensors wired to Arduino-based microprocessors for real-time monitoring and data collection. The 3D-printed devices were designed according to Engineering considerations to allow for specific flow regimes, flow rates, pressure/temperature ranges, and other constrains associated to the small scale of these designs. The 3D-printed devices included a fluidic bench, a packed bed column, coaxial and shell & tube heat exchangers, and cylindrical connectors acting as pressure taps. In these devices, effective lengths and diameters were in the order of centimeters and built-in pipes and conduits in the order of millimeters. Ancillary kit components included fluid components such as flexible tubing of various diameters, aquarium pumps, valves, connectors and reducers, along with electrical components for mini circuits such as wires, resistors, transistors, etc. Plastic labware was also included for liquid collection and volume measurement, sensors for differential pressure and temperature, among other elements. Boxes containing kit components required for experiments were given to students, and laboratory manuals were created containing theory, system configuration guidelines, standard operation procedures, and links to videos and other resources. The Fluid and Energy Transfer Operations Lab (Unit Operations 1) was completely revamped for this new platform hence four experimental modules were created: Fluid Flow, Flow Characteristic Curves, Packed Bed Column, and Heat Exchangers. Preliminary assessments from remotely assisted, synchronous experiments demonstrate the feasibility of these kits to keep the hands-on component of the class while enhancing the understanding of Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer phenomena. Additionally, kits have demonstrated a high versatility for multiple experimental designs, expanded statistical analysis, troubleshooting strategies, enhanced team dynamics, and the opportunity foster the student creativity by means of alternative experiments. Furthermore, the use of these kits has been extended for the instruction of Unit Operations 1 under hybrid platform with experiments conducted by students in a design studio-type classroom, and simultaneously other students performing the same experiments online. The evaluation of this hybrid platform is currently underway but based on the overall great response from students, the establishment of kit-based and pilot-scale combined modalities in Unit Operations classes will also be targeted as an alternative to intercalate multiscale analysis to further enhance learning outcomes for students in laboratory-based classes.