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A One Semester Engineering Chemistry Course

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Freshman Curriculum Development

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.81.1 - 7.81.11

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Paper Authors

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Mark Palmer

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Main Menu Session 2553

A One-Semester Engineering Chemistry Course

Mark A. Palmer1, Gary E. Wnek, Joseph Topich2, John B. Hudson, and James A. Moore3 1 Kettering University / 2Virginia Commonwealth University / 3Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


The number of courses in engineering curricula has been reduced during the last decade. A typical response by programs is to reduce the number of core courses, and move the specialty courses into the earlier years. Many curricula now require only one (if any), semester of chemistry. Recognizing that engineers need material from both semesters of the traditional two semester sequence, a new one-semester course was developed. This course has been designed around the pedagogical theme that "The properties of larger particles are based upon the properties of their constituent particles and their interactions". As such, the students are introduced to "modern" physics. To deliver a course such as this effectively , we have found that we need to adopt innovative teaching techniques including: focusing on the recitation, frequent feedback, the use of the studio-format, closer integration of the laboratory experience with the course, self-directed laboratory exercises, context- based learning, and the use of the internet. The course structure and the use of these techniques will be discussed.


The purpose of engineering education is well described by the words of Stephen van Rensselaer, the founder of the first civilian engineering college :“...instructing persons, who may choose to apply themselves, in the application of science to the common purposes of life"1. Chemistry is one of those scientific disciplines in which engineers must be competent if they are to address the common purposes of life. The impact of chemistry on modern society has been phenomenal including, advances in materials development, environmentally sound manufacturing, and biomedical advances which have increased the quality of life for many. However, whereas thirty years ago many engineering students would complete two semesters of basic chemistry, many engineering disciplines have reduced this experience to one semester or even eliminated it. Still, chemical processing concepts are taught throughout almost all engineering curricula.

This result may be partially explained by engineering faculty and students being unhappy with the introductory chemistry experience. Recent findings of the National Science Foundation which reported that students are not being served well by the “usual” methods of instruction2.

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Palmer, M. (2002, June), A One Semester Engineering Chemistry Course Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

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