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Chemical Engineering Senior Design at Colorado School of Mines: Recent Innovations & Achievements

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Chemical Engineering in the Junior and Senior Year

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Michael David Mau Barankin Colorado School of Mines

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Michael D. M. Barankin is a Teaching Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. Dr. Barankin received his B.S. and Ph.D. from the University of CA, Los Angeles in 2002 and 2009, respectively; and he received his M.S., graduating with honors, from the Technical University in Delft, the Netherlands (TU Delft) in 2004. After a post-doctoral appointment at TU Delft through 2011, Dr. Barankin was a lecturer at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, where he taught both in Dutch and in English. During this time his primary teaching and course development responsibilities were wide-ranging, but included running the Unit Operations laboratory, introducing Aspen Plus software to the curriculum, and developing a course for a new M.S. program on Renewable Energy (EUREC). In conjunction with his teaching appointment, he supervised dozens of internships (a part of the curriculum at the Hanze), and a number of undergraduate research projects with the Energy Knowledge Center (EKC) as well as a master’s thesis. In 2016, Dr. Barankin returned to the US to teach at the Colorado School of Mines. His primary teaching and course development responsibilities here include the Unit Operations Lab and Senior Design (including Aspen), among other undergraduate core courses. His research interests include digital & online methods in engineering education.

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Kevin J Cash Colorado School of Mines

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The one-semester Senior Design course at Colorado School of Mines has seen a large number of changes & developments over the past several years. The evolution of assessments, upgraded from general checklists to detailed checklists and ultimately to detailed rubrics for all assignments, along with structuring the course to be more front-loaded enables more consistency between different professors grading the same assignments (for different students or student groups). Introducing active learning methods has made students more enthusiastic about attending class. Anecdotally, these highly detailed rubrics also helped in reducing clarifying questions from students and active learning reduced the need for clarification (OH or email questions)—professors who had little or no prior experience with active learning methods found it highly effective as well and continued introducing more activities during lecture in successive years. Introducing reading guides & quizzes (the latter for participation points, due before the related-lecture) allowed us to eliminate several lectures in the first few weeks of the course, as these were previously simply rehashing information in the textbook. In addition, the introduction of peer-grading of a follow-up assignment (after students have received feedback on the first assignment) has reduced the workload for the professors while simultaneously enriching the amount and quality of feedback most students receive. Students had long requested the addition of industrial or other externally sponsored projects. While this was relatively labor-intensive in the first year (making contacts, writing contracts), it has been a highly rewarding exercise for everyone—nevertheless, the authors recommend keeping a professor responsible for grading, as industrial sponsors can have less of an understanding of course design and assessment standards than academics and/or have trouble delineating course learning objectives from project goals. Finally, it is strongly recommended to teach Aspen in the form of tutorials (either in-class or via videos) as students appreciate this learning mode (it is consistently mentioned positively in mid- and end-of-course evaluations) and benefit from it very well. The authors have also had a positive experience after dividing the expectations for progress reports and meetings with a bright line: progress reports focus on schedule, tasks, an updated draft report, and a summary of the latest results; meetings and presentations focus on actual content of the design (e.g., design decisions, stream tables & flow diagrams, etc.). Many of these suggestions are best practices, as identified and discussed in literature, while some are merely suggestions the authors found useful in this incarnation of the course. Since 2016, this core team of instructors has invested considerable time and effort in improving this course, soliciting various modes of student feedback and applying new pedagogical principles and techniques from the literature and from professional development activities. This paper describes these efforts, some of the newly developed tools and instruments used in the course, and some anecdotal results of these efforts from both students and instructors. The authors invite any interested faculty to seek direct contact by email with any questions or requests for materials, such as grading rubrics or reading guides.

Barankin, M. D. M., & Cash, K. J. (2020, June), Chemical Engineering Senior Design at Colorado School of Mines: Recent Innovations & Achievements Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34279

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