(153d) Introducing Contemporary Topics in a Transport Phenomena Course through Michigan-Themed Projects

Farhat, S., Kettering University
Turgman-Cohen, S., Kettering University
Chemical engineers contribute to solutions in an increasingly diverse set of areas. As such, it is essential for students to be trained to work effectively in cross-disciplinary teams and to hone their leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills. One method to accomplish this is project-based learning and, in particular, projects based on contemporary topics with a local scope. Such projects can be truly motivating to students since they can perceive their impact on the student’s communities, families, and themselves. Furthermore, this type of project can emphasize the effects that engineering solutions may have on a variety of contexts – economical, societal, and global, to name a few.

Transport phenomena represents one of the cornerstone topics in the chemical engineering curriculum. At many universities, transport phenomena is taught among several courses; for example: fluid dynamics, heat transfer, and mass transport/separations. Some programs have a modern “Transport Phenomena” course that incorporates modeling and computer simulations to expand on the basics of transport already discussed in previous courses. This more focused class can be challenging for undergraduate students because of its mathematical rigor and the difficulty to link the theoretical framework to applications in a direct way.

We created a set of projects for the senior-level “Applied Transport Phenomena” course at Kettering University, which were assigned as a final term project for the course. These projects were all related to topics associated with Michigan and drew on a variety of issues – including environment, safety, health, ethics, society, and politics. Project titles were as follows: “Dioxane Plume in Ann Arbor Groundwater,” “Michigan Lakes Freezing Depths – Safety and Environmental Effects,” and “Corrosion and Leaching of Lead in Pipes – Flint Water Crisis.” For each project, students were first tasked with completing a thorough literature review to understand the issue and to investigate the related history. They were asked to model the key transport phenomena related to each project – mass, heat, and momentum transfer were involved in each case. The projects allowed students to draw on theory developed in class and to apply it to a specific problem. Project constraints were altered to study the effects on the rate of transfer unique to each project; for example, the rate of leaching from pipes was estimated based on concentration of the water or based on the thickness of lead coating the pipes. Students worked in teams and presented their findings orally and in a written report.

Students completed surveys meant to understand their perspectives as well as to probe whether the projects enhanced their understanding of the course material and how it is applied. Details of the projects and a summary of student feedback will be presented.