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Interactive Mathematica Simulations for Chemical Engineering

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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

Novel Student Experiences in Chemical Engineering

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1005.1 - 26.1005.5



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Paper Authors


John L. Falconer University of Colorado, Boulder

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Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

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Garret Nicodemus University of Colorado, Boulder

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Dr. Nicodemus has taught a variety of different classes in chemical engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. He has helped build the inventory of screencasts, conceptests and simulations in chemical engineering courses. His interests have been in developing active learning methods and incorporating technology in the classroom.

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Interactive Mathematica Simulations for Chemical EngineeringMore than 65 interactive Mathematica simulations have been prepared for four chemicalengineering courses: kinetics/reactor design, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heattransfer. They were prepared using the Mathematica programming language and are availableon the Wolfram Demonstration Project website( They canbe used without a Mathematica license. They use the Manipulate command in Mathematica tocreate on-screen controls that allow users to change system variables. One of the key featuresof these simulations is that the calculations are done in real-time as input parameters aremanipulated using user-friendly controls, and the graphical output appears almostinstantaneously. Interactive simulations have been used extensively in physics education, andstudent interaction with computer simulations is known to have positive effects on learning andpromote student inquiry and exploration.These simulations have been used in class after asking students to predict system behavior aspart of a ConcepTest with student-held clickers. They have also been used outside of class aspart of assignments and in office hours to help students understand important concepts. Theyare excellent for demonstrating the idea of parametric sensitivity. A number of theseinteractive simulations have been used as part of screencasts prepared for information deliveryoutside of class (flipped classroom), and these screencasts are posted Some of the simulations are being used to prepare interactive tutorialsfor students to use on their own. In the first of these tutorials, which are on phase equilibrium,the concepts are introduced using simplified versions of the simulations that only allow onevariable to be manipulated so that the tutorial contains a number of simulations.

Falconer, J. L., & Nicodemus, G. (2015, June), Interactive Mathematica Simulations for Chemical Engineering Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24342

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