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Integrating Design Thinking in Chemical Engineering Coursework for Enhanced Student Learning

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Teaching Professional Skills in Chemical Engineering

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Jake Patrick Stengel Rowan University Orcid 16x16

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Jake Stengel is a graduate research student at Rowan University. He holds a BS from Rowan University in chemical engineering and is in his first year of the chemical engineering master’s program at Rowan University. His research focuses on using engineering fundamentals to improve process efficiency, affordability, and sustainability. His versatile work includes computer simulation, optimization, data analytics, mathematical modeling, machine learning, and software development. He currently is working with Dr. Kirti M. Yenkie to explore different teaching methodologies to strengthen the understanding of theoretical concepts for undergraduate students.

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Swapana Subbarao Jerpoth Rowan University

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Swapana S. Jerpoth received her B.Tech degree in Chemical Engineering from Priyadarshini Institute of Engineering and Technology, India in 2017, and her M.Tech degree in Petrochemical Engineering from Laxminarayan Institute of Technology, India in 2019. She joined as a Ph.D. student in the Chemical Engineering Department, Rowan University in 2019 and is currently working under the supervision of Dr. Kirti M. Yenkie. Swapana’s current research interests include sustainable process design and sustainability assessment of renewable and non-renewable energy resources with emphasis on analysis and optimization of transportation processes in multiproduct pipeline systems. She also serves as a teaching assistant at Rowan University Chemical Engineering Department courses in Thermodynamics, Separation Processes, and Process Dynamics and Controls. She is the graduate student mentor of the junior/senior engineering clinic for the industrial project funded by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the ExxonMobil Lubricant Oil Blending Facility Paulsboro NJ. Swapna is an active member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) as well as a member of the American Chemical Society (ACS). At present, she has one peer-reviewed publication and has presented her work at three international conferences. Her computational skills include Ansys Fluent, GAMS, MATLAB, and Polymath. Her hobbies and interests are singing, cooking, and painting.

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Kirti M. Yenkie Rowan University

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Dr. Kirti M. Yenkie is an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at Rowan University with 10+ years of experience working in the Process Systems Engineering (PSE) area with applications focusing on Sustainability and Environmental Resource Management. She is leading the Sustainable Design and Systems Medicine Lab (, which has capabilities to work with major programming and simulation tools. She holds a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC), MTech from IIT Bombay, and BTech from LIT Nagpur in Chemical Engineering. She has prior postdoctoral research experience from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Delaware. Her ongoing research on Green engineering and Water asset management is funded by the US EPA, Atlantic County Utilities Authority, and ExxonMobil. Her expertise includes mathematical modeling, optimization, programming, uncertainty analysis, and sustainability evaluation.

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In the engineering discipline, it is of utmost importance to give value to applied learning because as engineers, we are expected to innovate, and innovations happen when theoretical ideas are implemented successfully. Design thinking is one such approach that can enhance the value of theoretical concepts and motivate the students to visualize their ideas in more meaningful ways. The five stages of design thinking include: (i) Empathize, (ii) Define, (iii) Ideate, (iv) Prototype, and (v) Test. The traditional engineering curriculum focuses on the last four stages and thus leads to a skewed perspective among students with regards to problem definition, formulation, and solution. In this proposed curricular modification, we have developed computational modules as part of the Process Optimization and Experimental Methods in Chemical Engineering courses offered to seniors in the chemical engineering department as electives, which encompass all five stages of design thinking.

Integrating machine learning, programming, and simulation tools while developing the overall computational modules in courses such as Process Optimization and Experimental Methods in Chemical Engineering is novel because our students will be introduced to the capabilities of computer-assisted methods in decision-making for real-world problems and applications. Additionally, they will gain the ability to analyze different datasets, solve large-scale problems and evaluate outcomes and impacts from different perspectives such as economic, commercial, environmental, social, and political, which is challenging but at the same time very motivating to our students. For example, finding an appropriate location for building a plant site among multiple options is a very valid problem for the industry. However, when designing a plant location, we have to evaluate the profitability of the process, its vicinity to the market, transportation accessibility, storage facility, market-demands, political climate, competition, public acceptance, environmental impacts, etc. Such realistic examples are designed as complete modules through carefully design computer lab assignments and well-planned team projects.

To assist the students in their semester-long course projects, a three-stage assessment approach is developed. These three-stages enable the students to plan their work effectively and they also receive timely feedback. Furthermore, a detailed evaluation rubric that maps the five stages of design thinking to the three C’s of Curiosity, Connection, and Creating values is also provided which helps in building an entrepreneurial mindset among the graduating students. An entrepreneurial mindset teaches them the skills to identify opportunities and barriers, and how to overcome and learn from the setbacks as well as succeed in their goals. Thus, the benefits of the proposed teaching method lead to multiple benefits for the students such as visualization of the theoretical chemical engineering concepts more meaningfully, development of their teamwork, computational programming, technical writing, and presentation skills.

Stengel, J. P., & Jerpoth, S. S., & Yenkie, K. M. (2021, July), Integrating Design Thinking in Chemical Engineering Coursework for Enhanced Student Learning Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37358

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