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Early Introduction Of Design Fundamentals Into The Chemical Engineering Curriculum

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.159.1 - 2.159.7

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Brian S. Mitchell

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

Session 3513

Early Introduction of Design Fundamentals into the Chemical Engineering Curriculum

Brian S. Mitchell Tulane University


In response to concerns raised by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), many chemical engineering departments have been revising the design components of their curricula. These modifications range from incorporation of open-ended problems in existing courses to the development of new, design-oriented courses. At Tulane University in New Orleans, both of these approaches have been taken, in addition to renaming some existing courses to make a unified design sequence. The course “Chemical Engineering Design I,” is a first-semester, sophomore level course that was introduced in September, 1994 as part of a revised curriculum. The course content, its place in the design sequence, and the advantages and disadvantages of its inclusion in the curriculum are the subjects of this paper.

Course Content

A course outline for Chemical Engineering Design I is shown in Table 1. In its current form, Chemical Engineering Design I deals with the fundamental principles of five major topics: descriptive statistics, probability distributions, reliability analysis, quality control and engineering economics. Various components have been added and removed since the inception of the course. For example, linear regression was covered the first year, but was removed in subsequent years since essentially the same material is covered in Stoichiometry. Experimental design was introduced, including factorial analysis, but was removed in 1996 to make room for more engineering economics and an expansion of the design project. One-hour lectures on safety and engineering ethics are also incorporated as time allows. The majority of the class, however, is devoted to the five areas described above. Statistics for Engineering and the Sciences by Mendenhall and Sincich1 is currently the textbook for this course.

Descriptive statistics, probability fundamentals and probability distributions are covered in the first third of the course. The textbook is used for the majority of this material, with some supplementation for probability distributions. Spreadsheets are also utilized extensively to solve homework problems in descriptive statistics, ANOVA, hypothesis testing and probability calculations. Spreadsheet examples are performed in an electronic classroom, equipped with PCs, in which students, working in pairs, can solve example problems along with the instructor.

The second third of the course deals with applications of statistics and probability to chemical engineering. Specifically, component and system reliability, fault tree analysis,, acceptance sampling and control charts are covered. Again, spreadsheets are employed, particularly for the analysis and graphing of control chart data. The textbook is augmented heavily in this section with supplemental reading on fault tree analysis, and example problems from the chemical process industry.

Mitchell, B. S. (1997, June), Early Introduction Of Design Fundamentals Into The Chemical Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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