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Energizing the STEAM curricula with Bioenergy and Bioproducts

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Topics in Biomass and Gasification Processes

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.481.1 - 23.481.12



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Paper Authors


Madhumi Mitra Ph.D University of Maryland Eastern Shore

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Dr. Madhumi Mitra is an associate professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences in the Department of Natural Sciences at University of Maryland Eastern Shore. She is also the Coordinator of both the Biology and Chemistry Education Programs at UMES. Dr. Mitra obtained her Ph.D degree in 2002 from the Department of Plant Biology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is also the coordinator of Biology and Chemistry Education programs at UMES. She received her Bachelor's degree from Presidency College, Calcutta, India; thereafter received her Master's degree in Botany with a first class from the University Colleges of Sciences and Technology, Calcutta, India. Dr. Mitra is actively involved in research and teaching in the fields of biology, geology, environmental and marine sciences, and pedagogy. She is the recipient of many awards, scholarships, and grants.

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Abhijit Nagchaudhuri University of Maryland, Eastern Shore

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Abhijit Nagchaudhuri is a Professor in the Department of Engineering and Aviation Sciences at University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Dr. Nagchaudhuri is a member of ASME and ASEE professional societies and is actively involved in teaching and research in the fields of engineering mechanics, robotics and control systems; precision agriculture and remote sensing; and biofuels and renewable energy. Dr.Nagchaudhuri received his bachelors degree from Jadavpur University in Calcutta, India with a honors in Mechanical Engineering in 1983, thereafter, he worked in a multinational industry for four years before joining Tulane University as a graduate student in the fall of 1987. He received his M.S. degree from Tulane University in 1989 and Ph.D. degree from Duke University in 1992.

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Corinne Johnson Rutzke Corinne Rutzke

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Dr. Corinne Johnson Rutzke is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University. Rutzke directs a multi-state, multi-institution professional development program for educators (National Bioenergy & Bioproducts Education Programs). She also develops hands-on teaching tools, workbooks, and videos focusing on the topics of bioenergy & bioproducts. Rutzke earned a B.S. in Agricultural Sciences-Plant Pathology from The Ohio State University, an M.S. in Seed Science & Technology from Cornell University, and Ph.D. in Horticultural Physiology focusing on Controlled Environment Agriculture from Cornell University. She lives in Ithaca, NY and runs a small farm with husband Mike and two children Mikey and Ella.

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Energizing the STEAM curricula with Bioenergy and BioproductsThe mission of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) is to prepare professionalsand leaders in an ethnically diverse environment along with improving Science TechnologyEngineering Agriculture, and Mathematics (STEAM) instruction and research in the State ofMaryland while serving a large population of underrepresented minority students. The Bioenergyand Bioproducts Educational Programs (a partnership between Cornell University and five otheruniversities) at UMES are very well aligned with the University of Maryland System’s, “green”initiative. This program is geared towards helping reform educational infrastructure bypromoting multidisciplinary activities and content in the areas of bioenergy and bioproducts.Such an interdisciplinary perspective enhances interactions of investigators, K-16 teachers andfaculty, and pre-service teachers across disciplinary boundaries to provide insight to some of theintractable problems related to the environment. During the one-week institute on Bioenergy andBioproducts for STEAM teachers and faculty held at UMES in the summer of 2012, varioushands-on activities along with bioenergy and bioproducts-related curriculum developmentmaterials were presented to the ten educators. The educators represented middle and high schoolmath, technology, and science teachers; and faculty and graduate teaching assistants involvedwith undergraduate science and math teaching at the university. The activities implemented atthe institute followed Kolb’s experiential learning cycle with some adaptations. The participantsgot the opportunity to acquire concrete experiences involving teamwork, time management, andproject execution skills; reflected on their learning experiences through presentations at the endof the institute; developed concepts related to organic chemistry, engineering design,instrumentation, plant sciences, physics, mathematics, and environmental sciences; and activelyexperimented with virgin and used cooking oils to generate biodiesel, designed and set up asimple algae photobioreactor for culturing algae with the eventual objective of extraction of oilfrom the algal species and converting the oil into biodiesel, and made environmentally-friendlysoaps from the glycerin produced from the biodiesel. Tools and kits were given to theparticipants to assist them in instruction in classrooms and laboratories and for further advancingtheir STEAM curricula with a focus on bioenergy and bioproducts. The evaluation surveysconducted reveal that the educators gained substantial knowledge in the fields of bioenergy andbioproducts and expressed their interest in implementing the content as well as laboratories intheir curricula. In the context of this project, discussions are already underway to promote such interdisciplinaryefforts and synergize activities though the development of a core facility for bio-energy andsustainable bio-products. The project provides a model not just for other minority-servinginstitutions to accelerate reform efforts with interdisciplinary projects but also for otherinstitutions that are examining best ways to position themselves for the future in order tomaximize their key strengths. The key issues can also be captured in the multidisciplinarydimension of the terms "biodiesel/renewable energy" and "environmental stewardship" that havebroad overlaps with the 21st Century’s grand challenges espoused by the National Academy ofSciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

Mitra, M., & Nagchaudhuri, A., & Rutzke, C. J. (2013, June), Energizing the STEAM curricula with Bioenergy and Bioproducts Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19495

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