(495f) The River Project: Engineering Challenge-Based Learning from Bench-Scale to Pilot-Scale

Landherr, L. J., Northeastern University
Ziemer, K. S., Northeastern University

Northeastern University has combined both deductive and inductive educational approaches to develop a Transport/Separations curriculum sequence over two semesters with an experiential strategy that introduces different modes of learning through Discovery, Development and Design; (3D approach). The sequence includes a 4 SH lecture and a 2 SH unit operations laboratory for each of the semesters: the second semester of the second year, and the first semester of the third year.  Through the 3D experiential approach, students explore the natural engineering world and discover the underlying concepts (discovery). They are engaged through improving and innovating an experiment (development), and then use their newly acquired knowledge to design an experiment or unit operation (design).  The culmination of this sequence is a four-week challenge on water remediation.  For this project, students design and construct a small circulating river system which must include a stagnant area and a rapids area.  They characterize their clean river and research clean-water standards for rivers as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency of the USA.  Students then choose a pollution scenario, deciding type (industrial or sewage), source (point or non-point), and location of the river (urban or rural).  Simulated pollutants with an unknown composition are provided to the students.  Each pollutant provided includes both chemical and physical contaminants.  Groups then use bench scale testing of the pollutant and various chemical and physical modification experiments to design a remediation treatment for their river that solves the requirements to address river water purity.  This bench-scale data-based design is then constructed, implemented and tested on their river.  Students collect data on what worked and did not work in their remediation solution.  Based on this data, the students redesign their remediation solution and test again.  Using basic chemicals and novel filtration designs within their treatment systems, students implement their understanding of fluid mechanics, mass transfer, separations, thermodynamics, and kinetics, while also reinforcing writing, presentation, and teamwork skills.  The project finishes with a town hall-style presentation in which groups have to defend their decisions and recommendations, as well as respond to critical and probing questions from the audience acting as local citizens.  Our presentation will describe the methods, details, and assessment of a unique and rewarding laboratory module.