June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
22.157.1 - 22.157.8
Alternative Lab Reports – Engineering Effective CommunicationFor many chemical engineering undergraduate programs, the laboratory sequence allowsstudents to experience the application of chemical engineering outside of the classroom.Typically, the results of these experiments are analyzed and written up in a classiclaboratory report format. Although writing laboratory reports is a valuable skill, today’sengineers are expected to report their results and express their findings in different formsof oral, written, and visual communication.We have introduced a new initiative at The Cooper Union in the senior chemicalengineering laboratory sequence that provides the students with a range of skill-sets thatprepares them to communicate successfully on a professional level in different contextsand environments. As a baseline, students were expected to submit 1-2 laboratory reportsa semester, written on the level of a scholarly journal article. To develop and stretch theircommunication skills, students used their laboratory experiences to submit executivememos to company CEOs, formulate grant proposals to government agencies and createposters that convey their results in a visual setting. Students also made oral presentationstailored to a variety of key audiences of different scientific and corporate backgrounds.Cooper Union’s CONNECT (Cooper’s Own No Nonsense Engineering CommunicationTraining) Program, also initiated as part of this laboratory sequence in 1996, partneredthis initiative, providing students with feedback and specialized training in both writtenand oral communication. Visual communication techniques, such as presentationformatting and graphics development, were also introduced.In this paper, we will illustrate student work using these report alternatives, indicate howwe assessed their effectiveness, present examples of the feedback and specialized trainingstimulated by the students’ work, and outline the lessons we learned as we introducedthese new alternative laboratory reports.
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