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Integrating Problem-based and Project-based learning in large enrollment freshman engineering courses

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Early ChemE Education

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Bill B Elmore Mississippi State University

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Bill B. Elmore, Ph.D., P.E., is an Associate Professor and Director of the Swalm School of Chemical Engineering. In his role as the Hunter Henry Chair, he served as Undergraduate Coordinator for the chemical engineering program and Faculty Advisor for the student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He continues active teaching and research in engineering education through integration of project- and problem-based learning across engineering curricula.

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Integrating Problem-based and Project-based learning in large enrollment freshman engineering courses Abstract

This paper reports on the integration of problem-based and project-based learning opportunities conducted for over a decade with large enrollment classes of chemical and petroleum engineering freshmen. A primary objective of the first-year experience in our School is to build a highly visual understanding of basic engineering principles and applications associated with our degree programs—accomplishing this within the context of strong team-building activities. The approach taken is a blending of directed problem-solving activities in a collaborative learning environment coupled with Team Challenges through which groups of four freshmen engineering students engage in actively constructing systems for solving practical engineering problems. This approach brings to students a vibrant, interactive approach to learning about engineering at a time when individual anticipation (and anxiety) about studying engineering is perhaps at its highest. Student teams engage in practical, highly visual activities in a two-semester course sequence, gaining insight into real-world processes and engineering principles for measuring and controlling such processes. By assembling and testing a variety of simple engineering systems, students learn about engineering applications of math and science principles. Examples of systems studied include the development of a centrifugal pump curve using a simple, inexpensive apparatus; investigating level-control for continuous flow into and out of a small tank using LEGO NXT™ controllers/sensors; evaluating performance of a double-pipe heat exchanger using Vernier™ meters and sensors; and assessing performance of a simple wind turbine as a function of changes in various parameters such as blade design, wind speed, etc. Individual students are provided an opportunity to quickly build relationships and skills for teamwork, leadership and collaboration along with gaining an understanding of designing experiments, collecting and analyzing data, and contextualizing the meaning of the work within a broader focus on the practice of engineering. Detailed descriptions of the Team Challenges are reported herein, with survey results for class enrollments of 100-150+ for several semesters. Anecdotal feedback from prospective co-operative education and summer internship employers is also provided with respect to the impact this course is making on student interviewing skills and focus on their chosen major.

Elmore, B. B. (2017, June), Integrating Problem-based and Project-based learning in large enrollment freshman engineering courses Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28557

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