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A Traditional Material Balances Course Sprinkled With "Non Traditional" Experiences

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.57.1 - 3.57.12

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Paper Authors

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Willie E. (Skip) Rochefort

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

Session 1313

A Traditional Material Balances Course Sprinkled with "Non-Traditional" Experiences

Willie E. (Skip) Rochefort Chemical Engineering Department, Oregon State University

SUMMARY The traditional "first course" in most Chemical Engineering programs is the Material and Energy Balances sequence, typically taught in the sophomore year. In the introduction to their text, "Elementary Principles of Chemical Processes", Felder and Rousseau make the following observation: " A criticism sometimes leveled at the stoichiometry course is its emphasis on drill and routine solution methods, an emphasis that gives the student little idea of the wide range of problems to be encountered by the practicing engineer and the imaginative and creative abilities needed to solve some of them. Unfortunately.....the only way we have found to teach students the engineering approach to process analysis is to have them practice it, repeatedly, until they get it."

From their assessment it appears that the challenge facing the instructor is to provide sufficient "practice" at problem solving to make the students proficient, while providing sufficient additional stimulus to keep the students excited about chemical engineering. We have addressed this challenge in our Material Balances course by providing the students with a quarter long project based on a an actual chemical engineering process. The process that has been used for the past three years is the Ford-Wixom Material Balances Multimedia Module developed by Prof. Susan Montgomery and co-workers in the Multimedia Engineering Laboratory (MEL) at the University of Michigan.

There are several unique aspects to the project which separate it from routine course work, while providing a solid grounding in material balances and problem solving. The students are divided into groups of three "project engineers" and are assigned to a "group leader", who is typically a junior or senior chemical engineering student (Note: The upper division students participate in a 1 cr. Leadership and Mentoring course which is described in paper 2213-03). The "chain of command" that is established is similar to that the students will encounter in industry, with the instructor as the "project director", the upper division student as the "group leader", and the students as the "project engineers". The problem is assigned by the "project director" with a specific timeline given for completion of tasks. It is made perfectly clear that the "group leader" is there to provide guidance, assign tasks to individuals, and review work, but that the actual material balance calculations are the sole responsibility of the "project engineers". In turn, the "group leader" is given the responsibility of providing the leadership and guidance to coordinate the group work to meet project deadlines.

The F-W Module prepared by MEL has been used as the framework for the project, but has been extended to include a pollution prevention component, consisting of identification of "bad actors", development of a revised process flowsheet with the incorporation of new waste minimization technologies, and a cost analysis for process revisions and potential savings from process modifications and waste minimization. Two additional MEL developed modules are also available to students for this portion of the assignment: Wastewater Treatment Plant and

Rochefort, W. E. S. (1998, June), A Traditional Material Balances Course Sprinkled With "Non Traditional" Experiences Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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