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Fostering a Chemical Engineering Mind-set: Chemical Process Design Professional Development Workshops for Early Undergraduate Students

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Outreach and Beyond in the Chemical Engineering Classroom

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Sindia Rivera-Jiménez Ph.D. University of Florida

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Dr. Rivera is currently a Lecturer at the Institute for Excellence in Engineering Education (IE3) at the University of Florida. In this role, Dr. Rivera works towards creating educational content for Chemical Engineering and First-Year design classes. Also, Dr. Rivera research focuses on understanding the processes that contribute to the persistence and retention of underrepresented minorities in academic engineering programs. She also has projects with local companies on the topic of process simulations and analysis for environmental remediation.

Dr. Rivera was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She is a first generation engineer and doctorate. She completed her bachelor's and Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez with five publications and two patent applications on the topic of nanotechnology for environmental remediation.

Dr. Rivera has close to 10 years of teaching experience in Higher Education and professional training. Before joining IE3, Dr. Rivera was the Assistant Director of the Integrated Product and Process Design (IPPD) program at the University of Florida. Dr. Rivera keeps collaborating with IPPD as a faculty coach and instructional designer. She is a former professor of Food Science teaching courses such as Food Processing and Food Engineering. After moving to Gainesville in 2012, she became an assistant professor in Natural Science at Santa Fe College teaching general chemistry courses for young adults.

She has traveled to teach classes at universities in Puno, Perú, and São Paulo, Brasil. She loves running and is an amateur orchid collector.

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Deanna Alford University of Florida


Lilianny Virguez University of Florida

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Lilianny Virguez is a Lecturer at the Institute for Excellence in Engineering Education at University of Florida. She holds a Masters' degree in Management Systems Engineering and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. She has work experience in engineering and has taught engineering courses at the first-year level.Her research interests include motivation to succeed in engineering with a focus on first-year students.

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The opportunity to improve the teaching of engineering problem-solving and design skills can be met by implementing complementary chemical process simulation workshops for students in introductory courses (i.e., First-year Engineering Design, Material and Energy Balances, etc.). Engineering problem-solving and design skills allow students to apply their technical chemical engineering knowledge to produce useful and profitable products to society. However, these skills are traditionally taught in the senior year as part of capstone requirements. This leaves first-year, and sophomore students without enough experiences to develop a chemical engineering mindset (attitude) while practicing "actual" engineering work. Process simulators such as UniSim, HYSYS and ASPEN Plus are generally introduced in senior-level design and unit operations courses which are critical in the industry but will only be familiarized with it upon graduation.

The proposed professional development workshops invite students to engage voluntarily in online instructional videos independently and then partake in design tutorials in a collaborative setting. Ten video training will be hosted prior to meeting in-person. Video lessons will focus on completing simulation exercises that introduce unit operations (e.g., Reactors, Pumps, Heaters, Coolers, Mixers, and Tees), common industry equipment, and processes. Modeling and simulation of these processes are facilitated by using UniSim tools. Each face-to-face workshop will require students to work on team projects using their applied knowledge to solve simulation exercises at a higher level. To foster an engineering mindset, they must use introductory concepts of process economics and optimization techniques to make recommendations about their work.

This work in progress will explore to what extent student attitudes towards chemical engineering changes if problem-solving and design skills are practiced earlier the curriculum. Traditionally, engineering educators have focused assessments around students’ mastery of content knowledge and skills. However, previous studies suggest that student attitudes comprise another essential component of the evaluation. To assess the engineering mindset on student participants, we will use an already validated pre- and post- questionnaire and open ended-questions to examine how attitudes before and after being impacted by the professional development workshops. This work will provide with valuable information for measuring chemical engineering mindset for curriculum evaluation and improvement.

Rivera-Jiménez, S., & Alford, D., & Virguez, L. (2019, June), Fostering a Chemical Engineering Mind-set: Chemical Process Design Professional Development Workshops for Early Undergraduate Students Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32855

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