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Design of a Senior Laboratory Sequence to Guide Students in Multiple Academic Programs Towards Workforce Preparedness

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Focus on Capstone Experiences in the Chemical Engineering Curriculum

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.431.1 - 22.431.18



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Paper Authors


Philip H. Harding Oregon State University

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Dr. Harding has served since 2007 as the Linus Pauling Distinguished Engineer at Oregon State University School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering. He has worked in the oil, pulp and paper, and microelectronic industries with a history of responsibilities including process engineering, research and development, product reliability, and worldwide manufacturing and research strategy. He holds 14 patents, with another nine pending. Most recently, he worked for Hewlett-Packard Company in the role of Master Technologist.

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Milo Koretsky Oregon State University

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Milo Koretsky is an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Oregon State University. He currently has research activity in areas related to thin film materials processing and engineering education. He is interested in integrating technology into effective educational practices and in promoting the use of higher level cognitive skills in engineering problem solving. Dr. Koretsky is a six-time Intel Faculty Fellow and has won awards for his work in engineering education at the university and national levels.

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Design of a Senior Laboratory Sequence to Guide Students in Multiple Academic Programs Towards Workforce PreparednessIn 1997, the XXX Distinguished Engineer chair was established at XXX University with a mission tobetter prepare students for the workforce. The position is cyclically filled by individuals who havedemonstrated outstanding achievement and leadership in industry. This dedicated position has led tointegrated upper division experiential laboratory and project courses in the Chemical, Biological, andEnvironmental Engineering programs. The year-long curriculum structure is built around a theme of“college to career” transition and corresponding experimental, communication/teamwork, and projectmanagement skill development vectors. Experiments transition from more prescriptive to more open-ended and ambiguous. Early physical laboratory experiences are relatively simple and have specificequipment operating protocol and guidance provided. Virtual laboratories provide opportunity to practiceiterative experimental design and introduce open-endedness, ambiguity, and realistic considerations suchas operating and measurement costs. The virtual laboratory process simulations are based on chemicalvapor deposition or bioreactor processes, and include process and equipment variation. Analysis ofanonymous post-laboratory assessment surveys indicates that physical laboratories are less “ambiguous”after students experience a virtual laboratory. Conventional “unit operations” physical laboratories arethen conducted and are discipline-specific. The sequence culminates in a final 14-week project that oftenrequires device design and construction. These “senior projects” are sponsored by faculty members andlocal industry with a growing contribution from the latter. Communication skill development focusesfirst on individual writing ability, then oral presentation skills, and finally team dynamics andbrainstorming. The first course is a university “Writing Intensive Curriculum” course designed to provideindividualized, copious feedback to students that results in 25-30 pages of refined writing. Laboratorysection enrollments are limited to enable immediate (3 hour turnaround) writing feedback provided duringlaboratory by the instructor. A simple scheme of “objectives, methods, results” is emphasized for clearand succinct technical communication and applied to resumes, abstracts, and presentations. Projectmanagement fundamentals are taught throughout the year with early curriculum focused on terminology.This motivates students to consider “objectives” versus “assignments”. Task description, workbreakdown, resource planning and scheduling culminate in launching of the long-term project describedabove. The senior laboratory sequence has served nearly 300 students in 4 years. The number of seniorprojects sponsored by industry has tripled with outstanding support from faculty also. Free responsecourse evaluations are bimodal. Plans for more comprehensive assessment will be presented.

Harding, P. H., & Koretsky, M. (2011, June), Design of a Senior Laboratory Sequence to Guide Students in Multiple Academic Programs Towards Workforce Preparedness Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17712

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