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Global Projects: An Initiative to Train Chemical Engineering Students in Global Awareness

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

Utilizing Technology to Train Chemical Engineering Students

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Paper Authors


Joaquin Rodriguez University of Pittsburgh

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Joaquin Rodriguez is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh since 2018. He received his bachelor degree in Chemical Engineering from Universidad Simon Bolivar (Caracas, Venezuela), MSc. and PhD in the same discipline from the University of Pittsburgh. He developed his expertise in thermal cracking processes and advanced materials (needle coke, carbon fibers) from oil, and became business leader for specialty products at INTEVEP Petroleos de Venezuela (1983-1998). He is a founding member of Universidad Monteavila (Caracas, Venezuela) (1998—2018) and became the Chancellor (2005-2015), and the President of the Center for Higher Studies (2015-2018). After rejoining the University of Pittsburgh, he is teaching Pillar courses on Reactive Process Engineering, Process Control, and Process Design. In addition to technical courses, his service extends over engineering education, curriculum development, outreach programs, global awareness, sustainability, and diversity, equity and inclusion.

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David Sanchez University of Pittsburgh

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David V.P. Sanchez is an Associate Professor in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Civil & Environmental Engineering department and the Associate Director for the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at the University of Pittsburgh. He serves as the Program Director for the Master’s in Sustainable Engineering, the Undergraduate Certificate in Sustainability, the John C. Mascaro Faculty Fellows, and the Sustainability Global Engagement grant. He is the faculty lead for the University Honors College Food Ecosystem Scholar Community.

His research lab, Sustainable Design Labs, focuses on fusing analytical chemistry, sustainability design principles and data analytics to address Water and Sustainability grand challenges. Current thrusts focus on Smarter Riversheds, Microbial Fuel cells and advanced oxidation and separation processes.

Focused on co-creating long term partnerships that synergize community vision with Pitt’s core competencies of research and education, Sanchez has built up Pitt Hydroponics in Homewood, founded Constellation Energy Inventor labs for K-12 students, and re-created the Mascaro Center’s Teach the Teacher sustainability program for science educators in the region.

As a teacher he designed and created the Sustainability capstone course which has annually partnered with community stakeholders to address sustainability challenges at all scales. Past projects have included evaluating composting stations in Wilkinsburg, studying infrastructure resilience in Homewood, enabling community solar in PA, improving energy efficiency in McCandless Township, and improving water quality in our rivers. He teaches core Sustainability courses, labs in the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department, electives in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, the First-Year Engineering program, and International Study Abroad programs.

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The United Nations General Assembly established a set of 17 goals in 2015 known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They inspire concerted efforts around the world to be accomplished by the year 2030. Goal 17, “Partnerships for the Goals”, embraces the fundamental strategy to achieve all the goals by the effective collaboration of all nations, institutions, organizations, and individuals. It relies on extensive global awareness as the fundamental ground to build the recognition of diversity and inclusion; striving to consider every perspective in our shared world.

Academic institutions, particularly colleges and universities, should take leadership roles in educating the upcoming generation of professionals and leaders to accomplish this mission. Engineering schools and departments are required to demonstrate these as educational outcomes for their students. Specifically, Student Outcomes 2, 3, and 4 of ABET Criterion 3, all involve awareness, communication, and consideration of global contexts. This is critical to address the Sustainable Development goals as the students make up the future workforce in charge of advancing technical solutions for a better and sustainable world.

This paper discusses a three-year experience in the Chemical Engineering Department, with the participation of 162 college students, in 33 projects, as a curricular requirement for a capstone course. The project provided a unique opportunity for students to become acquainted with problems around the world and to challenge them to consider multiple solutions. Student teams collaborated with foreign organizations (in the country they chose to address a problem) to analyze and propose solutions for challenges in that country.

Activities are organized during the entire semester following project management techniques. They include an early presentation of the proposal, a scheduled progress report presentation, a poster, and a final presentation. Foreign partners are asked to provide their reflections on the experience. All classmates review and peer grade every deliverable from other teams. Students evaluate their teammates’ performance and provide a self-assessment of their individual experience at the end of the course. A ChE Global Day was held at the end of the semester to display the posters and presentations to a broad audience with the support of university offices and centers focused on global experiences and international relations. Students earn up to 10% of the definitive grade of the course for these global engagement projects. This approach has proved to be fully sustainable, and with an overwhelming satisfaction of all the participants.

It is important to note that the incorporation of a virtual platform during COVID-19 and the continuous monitoring and coaching by the instructor are producing best practices to foster communication between students and stakeholders.

Rodriguez, J., & Sanchez, D. (2022, August), Global Projects: An Initiative to Train Chemical Engineering Students in Global Awareness Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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