(329h) Incorporating Computer-Aided Software in the Undergraduate Chemical Engineering Core Courses
Computer-aided chemical process software and simulators are introduced in early chemical engineering curriculum courses because of their importance as essential tools in the chemical engineering curriculum. These simulation techniques are needed to be part of early courses activities in order to enhance students' potential and their appreciation of 'real-world' problem (or situations). Specifically, these activities are aimed towards enhancing students' understanding of key issues in topics conveyed in traditional teaching and learning situations. Chemical Engineering Principles is an undergraduate sophomore course designed to familiarize students with material and energy balances and phase equilibria within the context of chemical engineering. Process simulation is used at this early stage as an educational tool to enhance the process of learning. The use of simulator tools such as HYSYS appears to increase the interest of students in the subject and to improve the process of learning. Starting at the sophomore level, MATLAB is used in teaching a course on Computer Methods in Chemical Engineering in order to solve numerical computational problems in chemical engineering. HYSYS is also used to help students solve some process flowsheet problems, fit equilibrium data to different thermodynamic models, define reaction kinetics, and optimize process performance under different operating conditions (sensitivity analysis). This early exposure of these important tools has enabled students to understand more real chemical engineering problems and experiment with different operating conditions without the need for real experimentation. At the senior level, MATLAB, Simulink, and Control Station Loop-Pro software are integrated in teaching Process Dynamics and Control course. Students become more comfortable with control theory applications as these tools alleviate the burden of mathematical complexity of tackling more realistic process cases such as distillation columns, heat exchangers, reactors, etc. In Loop-Pro, real processes are interfaced with a "virtual" operator console view in which the students could monitor the various control instruments in the process and try different controller settings to visualize closed-loop responses. These virtual experiments helped students grasp and digest dry theoretical subjects and mimic real industrial setups. The process simulator HYSYS is not employed only in the capstone course ?Process Design? but also in some technical electives such as Oil and Gas Chemical Processes, which are taught to undergraduate CHE students. As knowledge and abilities of students in the simulators increased, they are challenged with more complicated scenarios and processes of vapor-liquid separations using ASPEN. The impact of incorporating these software tools in the CHE curriculum proved beneficial as evidenced by the high rate of employment for our graduates and through the mostly positive feedback received from industry about readiness of our fresh graduates to execute industrial projects. In addition, student exit surveys show that this is an effective method for teaching CHE courses.