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Revitalizing the Chemical Engineering Senior Design Experience: Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and a Flipped Classroom Experience

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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

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division – Design and Entrepreneurship

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1346.1 - 26.1346.15



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Paper Authors


Andrew Tadd Dept. of Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan

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Andrew Tadd earned a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan in 2006. After graduation, he remained at the University as a Postdoctoral Fellow, continuing research work on catalysts for hydrocarbon reforming and hydrogen production. In November of 2007 he officially joined the Department of Chemical Engineering’s staff when he was appointed as an Assistant Research Scientist. He holds a M.S. in Chemical Engineering (2001) from the University of Toledo and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from The Ohio State University (1997). Prior to entering graduate school in 1999, he worked as a Project Engineer and a Process Engineer for Pilkington, Inc. in Ohio and Michigan. Throughout graduate school and beyond his research has focused on catalysis. He has extensive experience preparing, testing, and characterizing heterogeneous catalysts in addition to experience with supercritical fluids. Dr. Tadd has authored and coauthored 18 papers and presentations in catalysis and catalysis integration, and holds a patent for a control methodology for hydrocarbon reforming reactors.

Concurrently with his appointment as an Assistant Research Scientist, Dr. Tadd began teaching part time in the Chemical Engineering Department. He has taught the junior heat and mass transfer laboratory course, ChE 360, and the senior-level process design and simulation course, ChE 487. Dr. Tadd officially joined the Chemical Engineering faculty as a full-time lecturer in Fall 2013, teaching the process design course senior design and the junior year separations course, ChE 343. Most recently, Dr. Tadd has been developing an elective course on statistics and applications to industrial quality, including an overview of SPC, Six Sigma terminology and techniques, and basic design of experiments.

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Elaine Wisniewski University of Michigan

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Elaine Wisniewski teaches technical communication courses in the Chemical Engineering and Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE) departments. She has degrees in IOE and Technical Communication from the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, respectively, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in technical communication and rhetoric at Texas Tech University. She has 12+ years of industry experience in human factors and safety engineering.

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Leena N Lalwani University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Leena Lalwani is an Engineering librarian and the Coordinator for Engineering Collection at the Art, Architecture and Engineering Library (AAEL) at the University of Michigan. She is also the liaison Librarian for Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering and Entrepreneurship. Leena has been a librarian at University of Michigan since 1995 in various ranks. Prior to joining University of Michigan, Leena has worked as Librarian at Gelman Sciences and American Tobacco Company. Leena has a M.L.S. degree from Catholic University of America and M.S. in Chemistry from the University of Mumbai.

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Revitalizing the Chemical Engineering Senior Design Experience:  Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and a Flipped Classroom Experience  Graduates in chemical engineering pursue a wide variety of careers and, in today’s business environment, technical proficiency is required but no longer sufficient to ensure success. Well­developed problem solving skills and the ability to describe, convey, and sell those solutions to upper management is a must.  The pace of business has also increased – higher productivity, shorter design turns, and global competition mean that successful engineers must be self­starters, seek out opportunities for improvements, and have an entrepreneurial mindset.  Our current capstone design experience, fails to fully prepare our graduates for these challenges. Currently, the course focuses on technical design skills, with light coverage of actual problem solving and design strategies or heuristics.  As the first truly comprehensive chemical engineering course, the current content is a blend of a review of principles and some concepts of integration of skills.  It is still delivered in a lecture­driven, teacher­centered format, and the communications component is heavily reliant on rather lengthy written reports.  Our student teams do benefit from being mentored by program alumni working in industry, which provides an element of exposure to the real world, but overall the course may be summarized as a bit of creative effort followed by a great deal of computation and technical writing.   Therefore, we revitalized the course with the goal to   ● focus more heavily on actual problem solving and design skills,   ● give students more practice and experience applying these skills with rapid feedback,   ● involve the students directly in problem generation and selection, and   ● shift the communications focus towards concise, business­oriented written and oral reporting.   This redesign aimed to give students more input into the projects they work on and more empowerment in their own learning, and provide an opportunity for  dedicating significant classroom time to active learning and peer­to­peer evaluation.  In pursuing these overall goals, we also developed better tools for differentiating individualized student assessment, separate from team­based assessments, and are currently assessing any demonstrable improvement in addressing individual course outcomes as identified by ABET.   This paper describes our approach to   ● develop the learning modules to deliver technical content to students on­demand, outside the  classroom   ● create in­class activities to give students practice using creative problem­solving strategies,  ● redesign the problem development process to make it student­driven by engaging and  empowering students to define and select a worthwhile problem, and   ● develop assessment tools to evaluate the new course design’s impact on student skills, as  compared to the traditional approach.  

Tadd, A., & Wisniewski, E., & Lalwani, L. N. (2015, June), Revitalizing the Chemical Engineering Senior Design Experience: Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and a Flipped Classroom Experience Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24683

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