(21d) Project Based Learning In Senior Unit Operation Laboratory At the University of Michigan

Robinson, M. A. - Presenter, University of Michigan
LaValle, P. - Presenter, University of Michigan

The University of Michigan has one of the oldest unit operations laboratories in this nation having been part of our core curriculum in Chemical Engineering since the founding of the department. All students must work on several types of process equipment such as a reactor, distillation column and evaporator to enhance their understanding of the fundamental technical knowledge from various lecture courses. During the past few years, we have modified the existing equipment in the laboratory and integrated them to form a simulated biodiesel production facility. In addition to the advantages of providing the students a clear understanding of the interconnectedness of these unit operations in a real production process, this approach also allows the laboratory to become an invaluable teaching tool for various soft skills fundamental to our profession. Skills such as team work, time management, the importance of producing practical information in a timely manner for other groups or teams are emphasized as the students work in an interdependent group environment to develop the specification and design of a large industrial scale facility based on the information gathered from an actual pilot plant or laboratory environment. Additionally, the students are encouraged to produce by the end of the semester a single group report on the viability of the process integration and improvement for the entire plant. We shall share our experience in this transformation of the senior unit operation laboratory in this talk.