Asee peer logo

Chemecar Experiments In A Chemical Engineering Freshman Seminar

Download Paper |


2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Novel Courses for ChEs

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.304.1 - 9.304.7



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Frank Bowman

Download Paper |

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

Session 1313

ChemECar Experiments in a Chemical Engineering Freshman Seminar Frank M. Bowman Department of Chemical Engineering Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN 37235


This paper describes experiments with a ChemECar used in a new chemical engineering freshman seminar at Vanderbilt University. The 1 credit hour course is designed to introduce freshman to the field and profession of chemical engineering by using examples from cutting- edge research. The goal is to expose students to chemical engineering in their first semester providing them an earlier chance to catch the excitement of chemical engineering and helping them make better-informed decisions regarding their educational plans. One 4 week module of the course was based on examining and experimenting with a fuel cell car to be used in the AIChE ChemECar contest. Each class period student teams were presented with an open-ended question such as how does the car work, how fast does it go, how much weight can it carry, what "mileage" does it get, etc. Teams designed simple experiments using basic measurement tools and items available in the classroom. Experimental results from all teams were compiled and used to try and answer the question of the day. At the beginning of the next class, the results and proposed explanations were examined in detail and the theory behind the experiments was discussed. Throughout the module concepts such as experimental error, uncertainty, data analysis, and technical writing were introduced and reinforced. The impact of the seminar, and the ChemECar module in particular, on student attitudes and understanding of chemical engineering will be presented.


Chemical engineering students at many universities receive little if any exposure to chemical engineering as freshmen, taking primarily large lecture courses in math, physics, chemistry, and general engineering. Often students do not begin to see the big picture of the chemical engineering profession until the senior capstone design course. Consequently, students form impressions of chemical engineering, make decisions on which major to pursue, and set expectations for the college learning environment early in their college career based almost entirely on non-engineering courses and professors.

Many engineering programs across the country have modified their freshman curricula to address these challenges. A variety of approaches has been used including general engineering courses, design-based courses[1, 2], orientation courses[3-5], and seminars[6, 7]. The Vanderbilt University School of Engineering has recently introduced a variety of freshman seminar electives for the purpose of providing students greater access to engineering faculty, helping them make more

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

Bowman, F. (2004, June), Chemecar Experiments In A Chemical Engineering Freshman Seminar Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13388

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2004 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015