Asee peer logo

Fundamental Sciences In Engineering Curriculum: The Case Of Chemistry

Download Paper |


2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.658.1 - 11.658.9



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Josef Rojter Victoria University of Tech.

Download Paper |

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

Fundamental Sciences in Engineering Curriculum: The Case of Chemistry


As a response to concerns and suggestions of the Institution of Engineers, Australia accrediting the undergraduate curriculum in mechanical engineering, the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Victoria University of Technology (VUT) decided to incorporate chemical sciences into its undergraduate curriculum. The first semester of second year materials technology subject was set aside to include topics of chemical sciences and technology. This course was eventually extended and also became an integral part of architectural, building and civil engineering curricula. Though all undergraduate engineering students at VUT had sound fundamental science background in disciplines of mathematics and physics, more than half of these students had no exposure to chemical sciences beyond that offered as part of general science curriculum at junior levels in secondary schools and colleges. This paper deals with the development of chemical syllabus and its refinement since its introduction in 1995 and is outlined in this paper.

The students’ lack of previous background in chemistry combined with the lack of laboratory resources and constrained by that this course was incorporated into a two semester engineering materials subject meant that the syllabus development had to be approached in a creative way. The course was constructed in a chemical engineering way. In designing the course I assumed that all students had no prior knowledge of any chemistry and the first 25 percent of the syllabus was devoted to the fundamental knowledge of atomic theory and bonding and its effect on physical and mechanical properties of solids. The remaining part of the course was devoted to process calculations through which students were introduced to fundamentals of mass and energy balances. The context of the syllabus was the development of problem solving skills in areas of environment, energy and material manufacturing issues. Subject evaluation has shown student satisfaction with the syllabus, comparatively higher pass rates than other engineering science and fundamental science subjects and interestingly it also showed that previous background in chemistry played little or no role in students’ academic performance in this subject.


In accrediting the undergraduate mechanical engineering course at VUT (Victoria University of Technology , in 1994, the accrediting body the IE Aust. (Institution of Engineers Australia), felt that despite the adequate proportion of fundamental sciences in the existing curriculum suggested an increase in the proportion of fundamental science was needed to address poor preparation of students entering the course. After considerable internal discussion which included disciplines of mathematical and computer sciences, biological sciences and physics it was agreed that IEAust recommendations could be met by the inclusion of one semester subject that focused on chemical sciences. The inclusion of chemical sciences in the mechanical engineering curriculum was in a way counter to prevailing trends of engineering curriculum development at Australian universities where chemical sciences have experienced a marked reduction of presence in engineering curricula (with the exception of chemical engineering). It also made sense because a high proportion of our graduates destination were in manufacturing industry and environmental technologies where since chemical sciences are part and parcel of engineering practice. In a way the inclusion of chemical sciences in the curriculum anticipated the reports made by the

Rojter, J. (2006, June), Fundamental Sciences In Engineering Curriculum: The Case Of Chemistry Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--464

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2006 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015