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Flipped Laboratories in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Experiential Learning in Chemical Engineering

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Lauren Sefcik Anderson Lafayette College

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Dr. Anderson is Associate Professor and Acting Head of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at Lafayette College. She received a BS in Chemical Engineering from Lafayette College in 2004 and a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Virginia in 2009. She is the recipient of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Dr. Anderson teaches courses in transport phenomena, experimental design, biomolecular engineering, and material science, including biomaterials. Her research area combines training in chemical engineering and biomedical engineering to study the interactions between biochemical signals, cells, and biomaterials, focusing on the genomic cellular response to thermoresponsive polymers.

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James K. Ferri Lafayette College

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James Ferri is James T. Marcus ’50 Professor and Head in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Lafayette College and has been an invited guest of Northwestern University in the Department of Materials Science, the Max Planck Institute in Potsdam, Germany, the Department of Chemistry and CSGI, University of Florence, and the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing, China. His research focuses on mechanics and transport in nanostructured surface materials and interfacial phenomena. He has more than 30 peer reviewed journal publications, 600 citations, and $1.6M in external research support with fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Max Planck Society, and the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. He received his BS and PhD both in Chemical Engineering from Johns Hopkins in 1995 and 2000.

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Ashley Danielle Cramer Lafayette College

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Ashley received her M.S. in Chemical and Biological Engineering from Northwestern University in 2012 and her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Lafayette College in 2010. She worked developing point of cared (POC) medical diagnostic devices for Quidel Corporation until 2014. Ashley's research interests include molecular diagnostics, polymer science and engineering, along with advanced manufacturing technologies.

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Important learning objectives for experiential, or hands-on, courses include development of skills pertaining to statistical experimental design and analysis of data and utilization of safe laboratory standard operating procedures (SOPs). As the complexity of laboratory equipment increases, so does the length of written SOPs and safety considerations. Furthermore, students are often asked to follow these written standardized documents in a recipe-like format to acquire the aforementioned skills instead of utilizing inquiry-based learning techniques. This project seeks to improve upon this general laboratory methodology, with the overarching goal to enhance student understanding and operability of chemical engineering processes and equipment. The objective of this project is to motivate and empower students to personally control hands-on learning through the development and implementation of flipped laboratories. Implementing a method of personalized learning addresses one of fourteen Grand Challenges for Engineering, set forth by the National Academy of Engineering, by allowing students to control the rate, time, and place of information delivery. A flipped laboratory is a pedagogical model that essentially inverts the instructor-to-student passage of information regarding operation of key pieces of equipment. Students will have access to a library of short videos (less than 5 minutes each) with narration that explains standard operating procedures, common protocols, and troubleshooting tips. Students watch the videos for pre-lab assignments and can have access to the video protocols with them in the laboratory using iPads. Flipped laboratories are expected to increase student confidence in approaching hands-on learning, which should translate to enhanced performance and inspire life-long learning. We implemented a pilot version of flipped laboratories in both pedagogical and research settings: CHE 312: Experimental Design I, the first hands-on laboratory experience in the curriculum, and in research experiences in the Center for Molecular Bioengineering (CMB). In Spring 2015, students enrolled in CHE 322: Experimental Design II created their own video SOPs for each major unit operation, including a packed bed reactor, heat exchanger, and VLE apparatus. These videos will be utilized in subsequent offerings of the course for pre-lab assignments. Students will assess their usefulness and create edited versions. We have created a You Tube channel to post these tutorial videos for each major piece of. Students and faculty who need to use a new piece of equipment can access these videos and learn how to operate the equipment. In CHE 312, a short video was developed that visually describes, with narration, the SOP of the Parr 1341 Oxygen Bomb Calorimeter to measure the heat of combustion of chocolate. The video has 2,690 views on YouTube to date. The video replaced pre-lab meetings with the instructor, saving approximately 10 minutes per group for 11 groups, or approximately 1 hr and 50 minutes of Instructor-led explanation of equipment operability. For research experiences in the CMB, two videos that have been posted for approximately three years: “Nikon Ti Eclipse Confocal Microscope – Fluorescence Imaging” has received 8,251 views and “How to Change Cell Culture Media” has 24,146 views. Based on an average in-class laboratory size of 15 students, we are demonstrating impact well-beyond our institution. Student learning gains from the flipped laboratories are assessed using surveys completed by the students that address perceived learning and confidence in their learning, as well as student focus groups led by senior members of the department that address the effectiveness of these videos, any challenges encountered with their development or implementation, and overall impact on the student learning experience. Video usage reports provide anecdotal evidence of their adoption and utility as a learning tool. Finally, the end-of-year student evaluation forms will be analyzed for student comments related to flipped laboratories.

Anderson, L. S., & Ferri, J. K., & Cramer, A. D. (2016, June), Flipped Laboratories in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26922

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