(154f) Aligning the Unit Operations Laboratory and the National Academy’s Grand Challenges

Authors: 
Carter, T., Northeastern University
Koppes, A., Northeastern University
Landherr, L. J., Northeastern University
Willey, R. J., Northeastern University
In 2008, The National Academy of Engineers identified several grand challenges which identify significant global needs.1 These challenges require critical thinking and problem solving skills, open-ended task analysis and teamwork.2,3In 2014, we initiated an effort to meet these grand challenges via realignment of our chemical engineering unit operations laboratory. Specifically, we added these grand challenges as inquiry and experientially based learning processes into the typical fluid flow experiments.

Students are now asked to choose a “grand challenge” and link their fundamental experiments to their grand challenge choice so that they can understand how fundamental knowledge leads to profound engineering developments. Students work in teams of 3-5 students to address their chosen challenge. To address some of the challenges associated with teamwork our approach includes a group “team charter”4 early in the process. This charter addresses leadership, team-function and time management skills. They are required to complete the charter each week which identifies team goals, ground rules, task lists, individual contributions and deadlines. The charter also provides a structure for specific feedback when students compare desired outcomes to weekly accomplishments.5

For the final project, students design their own experiment to address their “Grand Challenge.” The entire project occurs over the 12 weeks of the laboratory course. This includes fundamental “pre-experiments”, safety reviews, statistical analysis, and oral reports that identify the students’ progress. Their final design must be supported by evidence from their previous experiments and the final proposal also requires a time-line and budget estimate which must be supported by evidence from their previous experimental experiences. Examples of design projects in the areas of health, sustainability and security have included nanoparticle drug delivery for cancer treatment, carbon sequestration using mineral carbonation, and protecting a water source from biological attack. Our presentation will share how this redesign fills several gaps in engineering education as identified in the NAE and AICHE reports.2,3

[1] National Academy of Engineering, http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/

[2] National Academy of Engineering, Educating Engineers, https://www.nap.edu/catalog/18254/educating-engineers-preparing-21st-cen...

[3] Luo et al., Chemical Engineering Academic/Industry alignment study, //www.aiche.org/sites/default/files/docs/conferences/2015che_academicindus...

[4] Wolfe, J., Team Writing, A Guide to Working in Groups, Bedford/St. Martin’s, Boston, 2010

[5] TEAMMATES, http://teammatesv4.appspot.com/