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Hands-on Project Based Learning Design Project to Accommodate Social Distancing and On-line Learners

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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


Taryn Bayles University of Pittsburgh

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Taryn Melkus Bayles is a Professor, Teaching Track, in the Chemical & Petroleum Engineering Department at the University of Pittsburgh, and serves as the Vice Chair of Undergraduate Education. She has spent part of her career working in industry with Exxon, Westinghouse, Phillips Petroleum and Pittsburgh Energy Technology Center (now NETL). Her industrial experience has included process engineering, computer modeling and control, process design and testing, and engineering management. She has also spent 25 years teaching Chemical Engineering at the University of Nevada Reno, University of Pittsburgh, University of Maryland College Park and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Her current research focuses on Engineering Education and Outreach. The goal of this research is to increase awareness of and interest in pursuing engineering as a career, as well as to understand what factors help students be successful once they have chosen engineering as a major.

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With the outbreak of the pandemic, our School of Engineering spent summer 2020 re-working our classes so that our students could have comparable class experiences whether attending class in person or on-line. This presented a challenge on how to deliver a team centered hands-on design project in our sophomore level material and energy balance course. As part of this project, teams are required not only to research, design, construct, evaluate, test and report on their product, but also to develop a mathematical model to predict their product’s performance. It is important that the students have a fun yet inexpensive project to design and build, but they must also develop a mathematical understanding of the fundamental engineering principles that make their design work. Through this mathematical modeling the student cultivates the connection between mathematics and science, as well as understanding the fundamental engineering principles that make their products work.

This paper will describe the details of the design project, which includes the design criteria and constraints, how the students are introduced to the project through a professionally produced introductory video, and an introduction to the engineering design and decision-making process, while also teaching basic engineering concepts. Activities will be provided which helped to scaffold the underlying math and science concepts to support the design decisions. CATME was utilized in forming design teams – while balancing the teams by schedule, gender, race/ethnicity, GPA, and in-person/online. This allowed team members to participate equitably by developing the mathematical model (which was not restricted to the online students) and building and testing the product (in-person students with input from the online students) (while remaining socially distanced and testing outdoors) and all team members worked on the final design project report. Design testing videos and pictures will be included to illustrate the variety of successful design solutions – in addition, the list of design materials which were provided for the teams to select from for the construction of their design. The results of this project (fall 2020) will be compared to (fall 2021 – under a less restrictive COVID protocol) and pre-COVID (2002, 2008 and 2011) semesters – when this project was used in a first-year introduction to engineering design course.

Bayles, T. (2022, August), Hands-on Project Based Learning Design Project to Accommodate Social Distancing and On-line Learners Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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