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Multi-disciplinary Sustainable Senior Design Project: Design of a Campus Biodiesel Refinery

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Design Across Disciplines

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.955.1 - 25.955.13



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Paper Authors

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Stephen P. Mattingly University of Texas at Arlington Orcid 16x16

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Victoria C. P. Chen University of Texas, Arlington

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Brian H. Dennis University of Texas, Arlington

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K.J. Rogers University of Texas, Arlington


Melanie L. Sattler University of Texas, Arlington

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Melanie Sattler serves as an Associate Professor at the University of Texas, Arlington, where she teaches courses and conducts research related to air quality and sustainable energy. Her research has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Luminant Power, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. She has published more than 60 peer-reviewed papers and conference proceedings. In 2010, she received UT Arlington's Lockheed Martin Excellence in Engineering Teaching Award. She is a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Texas.

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Yvette Pearson Weatherton University of Texas, Arlington Orcid 16x16

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Yvette Pearson Weatherton received her Ph.D. in engineering and applied science (environmental engineering) from the University of New Orleans in 2000. She is currently a Senior Lecturer and Associate Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Texas, Arlington, and is a registered Professional Engineer in Louisiana. Pearson Weatherton has served (and continues to serve) as PI or Co-PI on several projects funded by the National Science Foundation, including "Engineering Sustainable Engineers," which is the focus of this paper.

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Benjamin Afotey Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology

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Benjamin Afotey hails from Ghana, West Africa. He completed his secondary education at St. Peter's Secondary School and Ghana National College. He graduated from the University of Science and Technology, with a bachelor's of science degree in chemical engineering in June 2000. During his final year, he worked as a student intern at Cocoa Processing Company, Ghana. Afotey completed his master's in civil/environmental engineering from the University of Texas, Arlington, in Dec. 2003. During this period, he was appointed a Graduate Teaching Assistant by Dr. Ernest Crosby. In Jan. 2005, he began his doctoral degree in civil/environmental engineering, where he was appointed a Graduate Research Assistant by Dr. Melanie Sattler. The North Central Texas Council of Governments' Aftermarket Technology and Fuel Additive Research Project is one of the research projects he worked on while completing the program. In Dec. 2008, he graduated from the university with a doctorate degree in civil/environmental engineering majoring in environmental engineering. He developed a micro-scale model to estimate exhaust emissions of light duty gasoline vehicles. He is currently a lecturer at the Chemical Engineering Department, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. His research interest include emissions measurement,air quality modeling, emissions modeling, air pollution control technologies, and estimating landfill gas for energy needs.

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Multi-Disciplinary Sustainable Senior Design Project: Design of a Campus Biodiesel RefineryEngineering Sustainable Engineers, a program sponsored by National Science Foundation, was designedto improve undergraduate student knowledge of and competency in addressing sustainability issues inengineering design and problem solving. One of the key program elements involved a multi-disciplinarysenior design project focusing on sustainability. Students from the three participating University XXXXdepartments (Civil Engineering, Industrial Engineering, and Electrical Engineering) collaborated to designa biodiesel production refinery for the campus.Students were to design a refinery that could use waste vegetable oil from campus food service asfeedstock to produce 100 gallons per week of biodiesel for campus shuttle buses and generators.Microreactors that facilitate rapid mixing of input waste oil, potassium hydroxide, and methanol weredesigned by Dr. Brian Dennis of the Mechanical Engineering Department. Civil engineering students werecharged with designing other refinery system components, including feed lines, tanks, pumps, andheaters. Highlights of the student design included: • A dry wash system for the biodiesel to reduce water use and labor requirements. • Use of the glycerol byproduct to make high quality soap. • A distillation system for recovery and re-use of methanol.Civil Engineering students also assessed the environmental impact of switching buses and generators tobiodiesel. Industrial Engineering students designed and optimized the facility layout and designedoperating procedures for refinery use. Electrical Engineering students designed required sensors,actuators and controls.Students participating in the multidisciplinary design project were surveyed regarding the multidisciplinaryteam experience to determine whether the project increased their knowledge of and competency inaddressing sustainability issues in engineering design. As indicated by the survey results, studentsagreed, from a small to a great extent, that the sustainable engineering design project increased theirability to explain sustainability concepts, recognize impacts of engineering designs on sustainability,mitigate potential negative impacts, and evaluate potential engineering solutions based on sustainability.Students also agreed that the design project would make them more likely to consider sustainable designoptions in their future career.Surveys indicated that students were less positive about the multi-disciplinary aspect of the designproject. Part of that was likely due to the fact that it proved difficult to find a meeting time whichaccommodated all student schedules.

Mattingly, S. P., & Chen, V. C. P., & Dennis, B. H., & Rogers, K., & Sattler, M. L., & Pearson Weatherton, Y., & Afotey, B. (2012, June), Multi-disciplinary Sustainable Senior Design Project: Design of a Campus Biodiesel Refinery Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21712

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