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Challenge Based Instruction In Biotransport

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

BME Courses

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.295.1 - 9.295.11

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Paper Authors

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Robert Roselli

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

Session 13XX

Challenge-Based Instruction in Biotransport Robert J. Roselli Department of Biomedical Engineering, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37235


An introductory physiological transport course was recently redesigned to take advantage of the benefits of challenge-based instruction. In this mode of instruction a series of specific challenges are introduced throughout the semester. The challenges are based on real problems in biotransport and are designed to motivate students to discover a solution. For example, principles of diffusion and chemical reaction can be introduced by asking why cells are so small. Many important concepts in heat transfer can be discovered by asking students to play the role of a consultant in a murder trial in which the time of death needs to be estimated. Newtonian and non-Newtonian fluid mechanics can be introduced by asking how bacteria and other inspired contaminants are cleared from the respiratory system. In general, students will not have sufficient knowledge to solve the challenge as initially presented. They must consult several resources to help them understand which conservation principles apply, which constitutive relationships are appropriate, and which parameters are most important. Students are then asked to use this new information to develop a model that is appropriate for the challenge. They start this while still in the classroom so they can get help from their classmates and from the instructor. In developing a model from first principles for each case, they become familiar with the process, learn when to use a microscopic versus macroscopic balance, and should better appreciate the origins and limitations of generalized equations used to describe transport phenomena, such as the Navier-Stokes equation. Since the challenge-driven method puts students in the position where they need to determine which parts of the taxonomy are relevant to the challenge, it is hoped that this approach will better prepare students for the workplace and for life-long learning.


Physiological Transport (BME 210) is a required course in the biomedical engineering curriculum at Vanderbilt University. Students normally take this course during their junior year. The course objective is to provide the fundamental principles and biological applications of momentum, heat and mass transfer. The course has followed a traditional approach, characterized by the presentation of lectures and instructor-centered problem-solving during the class period. The lectures normally covered material in the same sequence as it appeared in the textbook, and the textbook topics followed the traditional taxonomy of transport phenomena. Students were generally passive during classroom sessions and student problem solving was performed exclusively outside the classroom. Thus, the traditional method provides an

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Roselli, R. (2004, June), Challenge Based Instruction In Biotransport Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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