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Chem Engine: Realizing Entrepreneurship In Undergraduate Engineering Education

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.266.1 - 6.266.19

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Paper Authors

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Nicholas Cain

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Julia McLees

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Jason Bara

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Gary Wnek

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Bradford Crosby

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Gary Huvard

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

Session 1454

ChemEngine: Realizing Entrepreneurship in Undergraduate Engineering Education

Gary Huvard, Gary Wnek , Bradford Crosby, Nicholas Cain, Julia McLees, and Jason Bara Virginia Commonwealth University


A key objective of the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Engineering is to link engineering and business education. VCU Chemical Engineering students have launched ChemEngine, a unique, student-run consulting company that provides multiple, fee-based services to chemical, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and other high-tech firms. Problem solving skills taught early in our curriculum give students valuable and marketable engineering skills after only two years in the program. Our students, with some faculty guidance, are running an engineering consulting practice and working on a myriad of interesting and educational projects.

Appropriate projects for student consultants are generally of the following types: diagnostic, development, or design. Diagnostic problems address questions such as “What is the oily material that is contaminating this filter?” or “Why is the flooring material in our factory failing?” or “Why does our fiberglass preform process produce scrap during the summer months but not during the winter?” Almost any phenomenon that needs an explanation fits this ChemEngine project profile. Development projects might require a team to collect data on a pilot plant or to determine how fast a carbon filter absorbs odors or to formulate a fire-retardant paint for asphalt-based roofing materials. Design projects allow the students to stretch the limits of their training and creativity to, for example, devise a way to produce a microfluidic chip for a biomedical device, create a new digital circuit to operate a micropump, build an instrument to precisely measure the moisture vapor permeability of nonwoven fabrics, or design an ultraviolet sensor for a waste-water treatment system. Our student consultants have worked on all of these problems and others since the company was founded 18 months ago.

Our presentation will describe the business structure and marketing of ChemEngine and offer several projects as examples. However, our primary focus will be on the educational and motivational benefits that accrue when engineering students run their own consulting firm.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Cain, N., & McLees, J., & Bara, J., & Wnek, G., & Crosby, B., & Huvard, G. (2001, June), Chem Engine: Realizing Entrepreneurship In Undergraduate Engineering Education Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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