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Hands On Chemical Engineering Senior Design: Evolution From Paper To Practice

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Novel Courses and Content for ChEs II

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.661.1 - 13.661.14



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Paper Authors

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Margot Vigeant Bucknell University

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James Maneval Bucknell University

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Michael Prince Bucknell University

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Michael Hanyak Bucknell University

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William Snyder Bucknell University

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

Hands-On Chemical Engineering Senior Design: The Evolution from Paper to Practice

Margot Vigeant, James Maneval, William Snyder, Michael Hanyak and Michael Prince

Bucknell University Department of Chemical Engineering


Historically, the senior design sequence in chemical engineering has differed from that of other engineering disciplines due in large part to problems of scale: a team of mechanical engineers can reasonably design and produce a prototype stapler, for example, but it is beyond most schools’ capabilities to have the chemical engineers both design and “produce” a petrochemical plant. Therefore chemical engineering design has focused primarily on the “paper” aspects of design, encompassing unit operations, economics, planning, and process simulation. This approach unfortunately misses out on some potentially important lessons that can be learned from actual process implementation, such as the need for process flexibility and the challenges of controlling a system to the five decimal places that were so easily specified in the paper design.

This paper describes the seven year long evolution at Bucknell University towards a hybrid paper/practical senior design sequence where each team must physically solve a real chemical engineering problem, often from local industry, by the end of the year. Solutions to the problems must be demonstrated experimentally, and have ranged from developing and operating bench- and pilot-scale processes to design and development of novel process equipment to developing novel process conditions for existing equipment to result in superior products. Both survey and direct assessment results demonstrate positive student outcomes from this version of the course sequence. This paper will also reflect upon both the plusses and minuses of this approach from the faculty perspective.


Senior design is the capping experience in undergraduate chemical engineering education, wherein students undertake a design process compiling elements from each of their undergraduate courses. Until recently a course of this nature was specified by ABET. While ABET current rules are less proscriptive, there is general agreement among Chemical Engineering programs that senior design continues to be an important and required course. The common goals of this course are for students to realize the design of a chemical facility, incorporating economics, process simulation, control,

Proceedings of the 2008 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2008, American Society for Engineering Education

Vigeant, M., & Maneval, J., & Prince, M., & Hanyak, M., & Snyder, W. (2008, June), Hands On Chemical Engineering Senior Design: Evolution From Paper To Practice Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4008

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