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Developing T-Shaped Professional Engineers Through an Advance Energy System Course

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

ECCD Applications in Energy and Thermodynamics

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.505.1 - 26.505.18



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Paper Authors


Ryan L Falkenstein-Smith Syracuse University

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Ryan is a Ph.D. candidate at Syracuse University whose research interest range from carbon sequestration to engineering education.

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Jeongmin Ahn Syracuse University

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Kang Wang Syracuse University


Ryan James Milcarek Syracuse University

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Ryan Milcarek is a Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering PhD student at Syracuse University with a focus in Energy Systems Engineering. He worked for the Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Center at Syracuse University for 2 years starting in the Spring of 2012. Ryan currently works as a Research Assistant in the Combustion and Energy Research Laboratory (COMER). His current research is focused on new catalyst development, ceramic materials for solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), combustion, energy conversion, fuel cell modeling, fuel cell technology applications and system design. Ryan is a Syracuse University Graduate Fellow and an Astronaut Scholar.

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Title: Developing T-Shaped Professional Engineers through an Advance Energy System Course Technology innovation moves at an exponential rate making it extremely difficult forengineering curriculum to educate students on all current developments. Although studentsreceive an extensive education of engineering textbook theory, they lack a further understandinglinking fundamental engineering principles and practical applications. As a direct result,employers are held responsible for training newly hired students on material they should alreadyknow. Therefore, universities must begin to reform their curriculum to develop T-Shapedprofessional engineers, students that understand the depth of the engineering principles and thebreadth of how said principles branches into multiple sectors of industry. Fuel Cell Science andTechnology is a new course that was developed to promote T-shaped professional skills througha reasonable balance of theory and practice while also encouraging students to continue theircareer/education in engineering fields. In order to achieve this, students participated in an active learning environment wherethey focused on fuel cell systems, their technologies, and their environmental consequencesthrough detailed lessons, a three-day lecture series, interactive hands-on laboratory experiments,and a real world system design final project. Lectures discussed the fundamentals concepts offuel cell thermodynamics, electrode kinetics, and conditioning fuel cell performance followed bya midterm evaluation. Students then participated in a three day lecture series given byexperienced fuel cell engineers and researchers who discussed current and future work of fuelcell technologies and their impact on the current energy infrastructure. To provide students withone-on-one, hands on experience, students were divided into four groups and assigned toperform weekly laboratory experiments focusing on fuel cell manufacturing techniques. Afterproducing a working fuel cell, groups would evaluate the performance of their cell, using asource meter, and then characterize it from the measured data. Finally, to gain a holisticcomprehension of fuel cell technology students were given a final project that required groups todesign a working fuel cell system with balance of plant components and discuss itsimplementation and impact in a real world scenario. Student progress was not only monitored from academic performance, but also fromstudent feedback provided from beginning, middle, and end of the semester surveys. Thefeedback showed that as students gained a better understanding of fuel cell technology, theybecame more aware of its useful application and the larger role it plays as an alternative energyin the current industry. While proceeding through lab assignments, students could reinforce theknowledge presented in class lectures while developing critical thinking skills. Also by dividingthem into groups, students were encouraged to develop solid team work and communicationskills and produce a complete and extensive final project. The final surveys showed that theoverall course provided students with a stronger confidence in their ability and a higher interestin alternative energy systems.

Falkenstein-Smith, R. L., & Ahn, J., & Wang, K., & Milcarek, R. J. (2015, June), Developing T-Shaped Professional Engineers Through an Advance Energy System Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23844

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