(329a) Organizing a Multidisciplinary Student Design Project through An Innovative Partnership with Local Industry



The design of a chemical process is often the culmination of the undergraduate education in chemical engineering. There are significant benefits to be realized by introducing students to the design process earlier in the curriculum. However, these efforts are often hampered by the fact that sophomore and junior level students haven't yet had the coursework required for a typical capstone type design project.

This contribution will describe an innovative project conceived through a partnership with local industry that involves a multidisciplinary team of students from the sophomore, junior and senior classes working together on an actual design project provided by a local industrial partner. By grouping students of different levels of experience, the underclass students are able to contribute at an appropriate level, while still being involved in the overall design project as organized by the senior class.

Several challenges must be addressed when working on projects provided by industry, namely, confidentiality, intellectual property ownership and ability to present and/or publish findings. The strategy for addressing each of these challenges will be presented. Despite these challenges, the potential rewards of such a partnership are tremendous. By working on an actual project provided by local industry, the students get a real sense of the challenges faced by practicing engineers. These challenges include underspecified problem statements, lack of process and property data and open-ended design goals. This contribution will present some of the student experience with this unconventional approach to a non-capstone design project. Finally, a path forward for maintaining the partnership with industry and plans for additional outcome assessment will be presented.