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Hands-on Tabletop Units for Addressing Persistent Conceptual Difficulties in Continuity & Bioengineering

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Chemical Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.837.1 - 26.837.7



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Paper Authors


Xuesong Li P.E. Washington State University

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Ms. Xuesong Li is a Ph.D. candidate from Washington State University at Pullman, Wash. Her research area is dual ionophore based on an ion-selective electrode biosensor and hands-on learning for chemical engineering courses.

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Bernard J. Van Wie Washington State University

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Prof. Bernard J. Van Wie did his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D., and postdoctoral work at the University of Oklahoma where he also taught as a visiting lecturer. He has been on the Washington State University faculty for 32 years and for the past 18 years has focused on innovative pedagogy research and technical research in biotechnology. His 2007-2008 Fulbright exchange to Nigeria set the stage for him to receive the Marian Smith Award given annually to the most innovative teacher at Washington State University.

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Hands-on Tabletop Units for Addressing Persistent Conceptual Difficulties in Continuity and Fictional Loss in Fluid MechanicsAlong with the rapid development of science and technology, and the increasing influence ofmodern chemical industry in economic development, how to foster excellence in chemicalengineering education is becoming a primary focus. There is a need for use of alternativelearning strategies in engineering courses particularly for conveying concepts involvingapplication of scientific principles to real physical systems. To assess innovative methods forsolving the problems and limitations of the traditional teaching model in chemical engineering, ahalf interactive hands-on learning experiment, half lecture teaching model was explored. In thisprocess, having the aim of better digestion and absorption of key principles and difficultconcepts in fluid mechanics, we combined multimedia technology with whiteboard and hands-ontabletop units.The Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer course at hand is a compulsory professional course forstudents in chemical engineering. Through interviews we identified persistent gaps inunderstanding of continuity and pressure drop as flow proceeds along a tube even among seniorswho have already had the junior level course on this topic. For the continuity and pressure dropissues no known widely available hands-on devices to date have been developed to specificallyaddress gaps in this area.In this paper we highlight a means to solve this problem. We built two simple classroom units todemonstrate continuity and pressure drop concepts. In one system flow exits the bottom of areservoir through a two-foot long half inch diameter tube with five hydrostatic head tubesequally spaced along the length of the tube. The distant end made a 90 degree bend to exit into asecond reservoir. Three valves were positioned along the tube, one just outside the first reservoir,and another just before and one just after the 90 degree bend. The system shows unequivocallinear pressure drops as flow continues along the tubes with a higher pressure loss through valves.The second system has flow beginning in one reservoir being transferred to another at lowerelevation. The system is ideal for explaining continuity as graduated markings indicate the samelevel of rise in fluid in the second reservoir as that lost in the first. This is counter intuitive tomany students as they believe either that velocity increases as flow continues downhill or thatflow velocity slows due to friction. We designed a controlled study in which one section hadhands-on learning while the other had lecture on the topics. We also designed assessments usingpretest and posttest questions with the pretest at the beginning of the semester with questionsabout continuity and pressure drop. Then just before the semester’s end, students took theposttest on the same topics and we evaluated their performance. We also designed end-of-semester survey questions for students to self-report about the perceived efficacy of theimplementation. We report on the system design features, outcomes in conceptual gains, andstudent comments.

Li, X., & Van Wie, B. J. (2015, June), Hands-on Tabletop Units for Addressing Persistent Conceptual Difficulties in Continuity & Bioengineering Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24174

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