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Sneakers As A First Step In Chemical Engineering

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1133.1 - 11.1133.12



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Paper Authors


Margot Vigeant Bucknell University

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MARGOT A.S. VIGEANT is a newly minted associate professor of chemical engineering. She has been on the Bucknell faculty since 1999 and involved in the first-year program since 2002.

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Richard Moore Bucknell University

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RICHARD H. MOORE is a masters’ student in the department of chemical engineering, and also a B.S. level graduate of Bucknell. He intends to pursue his PhD after completion of his M.S. this May.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Sneakers as a First-Step in Chemical Engineering


Exploring Engineering is a required course for all first-year engineers at Bucknell University. This course provides students with an overview of the engineering disciplines, a first experience in engineering design, and an introduction to professional responsibility. Within this course, students elect to take three different three-week seminars, each focusing on a particular discipline. While these seminars provide depth in a given area, they must also contribute to the overall course objective: that students will develop an appreciation for the commonalities of all engineering disciplines.

“Engineering Athletics” is the chemical engineering seminar, in which students learn about polymer science, materials science, material balances and the design/manufacturing process within the context of designing a better sneaker. This paper describes the integrated series of classroom and laboratory sessions which comprise this project-based seminar. Briefly, student teams measure the material properties of a variety of commercially-available shoes. Students then develop a formulation for condensing solid rubber from liquid latex with the goal of producing a product that has properties which match or surpass those of polymers used in existing shoes. Finally, students attempt to “mass produce” this formulation to match specifications based upon the properties of their desired product.

This project is an excellent fit for a first-year course because it introduces key concepts in chemical engineering while emphasizing the interconnectedness of the engineering disciplines. Because many students are interested in sports equipment, the seminar works well as both an introduction for future chemical engineers and as a “taste” for those going on to other majors.


Bucknell University is a primarily undergraduate institution with a focus on undergraduate education. The College of Engineering consists of approximately 700 undergraduate students, currently divided among six major fields (Biomedical, Chemical, Civil and Environmental, Computer Science, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering). ENGR 100 is a course taken in the first semester of the first year by 210 students, comprising all incoming engineering students as well as interested students in the College of Arts and Sciences. The course is run in a modular format described in Vigeant et al [1-3]. The course format is summarized in Table 1.

The first course module introduces engineering and each of the six engineering disciplines taught at Bucknell and features a team-project where students suggest improvements to the Bucknell campus to enhance mobility for persons who use wheelchairs [1]. The second, third, and fourth modules consist of student selected, discipline related seminars. Eight different seminars are offered, each representing a different area of interest within the College of Engineering [2]. The

Vigeant, M., & Moore, R. (2006, June), Sneakers As A First Step In Chemical Engineering Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--823

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