(329b) Development of Classroom Experiments to Introduce Decision Making Under Uncertainty to Students in a Design I Course
Chemical Engineering graduates will face challenges at the work place that even their peers who graduated a mere decade ago were not expected to face. One such major challenge is the management and operation of companies and plants under conditions of uncertainty and the need to make decisions in competitive situations. Modern developments in Economics offer the tools to address this challenge with rather well developed concepts, such as decision theory and financial risk analysis. In this work we will describe our efforts to integrate modern economics concepts and techniques in the teaching of Engineering Design. In addition, we will discuss the development of illustrative classroom experiments and case studies that will showcase such concepts.
The Chemical Engineering curriculum at the University of Oklahoma includes three courses in Design: Design Lab (2 credit hours), Design I (3 credit hours) and Design II (3 credit hours). The capstone projects are part of Design II, while Design I is the course that introduces Engineering Economics to students, as well as concepts such as profitability and cost analysis. The majority of the students who enroll in Design I have no background in Economics, since introductory Economics courses are part of the general education electives (as are several other courses in the social sciences). The type of Engineering Economics taught to them focused on cost analysis and profitability estimation with limited references to uncertainty and decision making under uncertainty. This is typical of Engineering Economics courses offered in programs around the country. For the past several years, we have included material on risk analysis and decision making in the Design I class. Lately, through collaboration between Chemical Engineering and the Department of Economics, we have developed classroom experiments that demonstrate concepts such as game theory, the winner's curse, and the utility function that can be used to quantify risk and facilitate decision making under uncertainty. In this presentation, we will discuss the development of these experiments and the educational objectives of each experiment. We will also demonstrate the basic components of these experiments and we will discuss the mechanics of conducting these experiments in the classroom.