(367a) Leaving a Lasting Impression: Ideas for Attracting and Inspiring Future Chemical Engineers | AIChE

(367a) Leaving a Lasting Impression: Ideas for Attracting and Inspiring Future Chemical Engineers


Stagg-Williams, S. M. - Presenter, University of Kansas

The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Kansas has established program objectives that include developing innovative pedagogical techniques to enhance the ability of the students to integrate and apply knowledge to solve complex problems. To be successful in achieving this objective, the students must retain the fundamental knowledge taught in the curriculum's core courses. It is well established in education that retention of information is much higher in an active learning classroom as opposed to a passive or lecture based classroom.1 Research has shown2 that 5% of the material presented is retained in lecture based classrooms, compared to 75% with hands-on experience and 90% in cooperative learning environments. Furthermore, problem solving skills, critical thinking, and motivation for lifelong learning were higher in students that were involved in active based learning classes.1

This paper describes the current and future integration of hands-on learning into graduate and undergraduate courses in Chemical Engineering and the use of educational modules in grades 5-12 to attract and retain students in the chemical engineering profession. The hands-on learning covers many aspects of the core concepts of chemical engineering as well as including some interdisciplinary research in the fabrication and utilization of membrane reactors for the production of hydrogen. One example that will be discussed is the incorporation of hands-on materials characterization into a graduate senior level elective catalysis and surface science/characterization course. The course allowed students to apply the knowledge of basic sciences to more complicated systems and surface characterization techniques. The course focused on: 1) materials preparation including semiconductors and thin films, singe crystals, and heterogeneous catalysts; 2) methods for analyzing surface reactions including products and adsorbed surface species, and 3) methods for characterizing the structure of the materials both bulk and surface. The structure of the course combined lectures, experimentation, and the student's research into a learning environment in which the student's applied the knowledge and skills they acquired directly to their area of emphasis. The students learned about many techniques through lectures and in-class analysis of literature data. In addition they received hands-on experience in selected methods readily available such as SEM, FTIR, and XRD.

Future plans for integrating hands-on learning into the undergraduate curriculum will also be discussed. In typical chemical engineering curriculums the students are only exposed to laboratory courses when they are expected to apply the concepts that they have learned in their freshman through junior year. The hands-on modules under development would be used to reinforce concepts early on similar to what is done in the basic sciences (chemistry, biology, physics, etc.).

The final topic that will be discussed in the development of educational outreach modules for students in grades 5-12 to introduce students to engineering. Encouraging young men and women to consider careers in engineering at an early age is vital for continued growth of the profession. However, finding learning activities that are fun and informative for students in grades 5-12 can be challenging. Several modules being developed will be discussed.

1. McKeachie, W. J., Pintrich, P. R., Lin, Y. G., and Smith, D. A., Teaching and learning in the college classroom: A review of the literature, Ann Arbor: National Center for Research to Improve Postsecondary Teaching and Learning, The University of Michigan, (1987).

2. ?The learning pyramid?, National Training Laboratories, Bethel Maine, (1990).