(217b) Nature Inspired Chemical Engineering: A New Elective Course for Senior Undergraduate and Graduate Students

Authors: 
Lepek, D., The Cooper Union
Coppens, M. O., University College London
In 2013, UCL was awarded an EPSRC (United Kingdomâ??s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) â??Frontier Engineeringâ? Grant to form a multi-disciplinary Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering, directed by Marc-Olivier Coppens. The overarching vision of the center is to use nature as a guiding platform to seek potentially transformative solutions to engineering grand challenges, such as sustainable energy, scalable manufacturing methods and clean water. Beyond biomimicry, this nature-inspired approach seeks to reveal fundamental mechanisms in the natural world that underlie desirable properties such as scalability, efficiency or robustness, and can be applied in a broader context to solve similar problems in engineering.

To complement the new research center, a new senior undergraduate / MSc-level elective course on Nature Inspired Chemical Engineering was developed and taught by us. One of the main learning objectives of the course was to stimulate creative thought in leveraging natural phenomena to solve chemical engineering problems. This was achieved by using a variety of active learning and pedagogical techniques, such as, annotated textbook readings of current journal publications, oral presentations highlighting the balance between nature and technology, laboratory demonstrations, and a semester-long group project motivated by student interest in learning from nature to create innovative solutions to chemical engineering problems. Examples of all these activities, including highlights from the final student projects, will be presented.

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