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Student-led Example Problems in a Graduate-level Advanced Transport Phenomena Course

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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

Communication in the Chemical Engineering Curriculum

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1429.1 - 26.1429.18



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Paper Authors


Adrienne Minerick Michigan Technological University Orcid 16x16

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Adrienne Minerick received her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame and B.S. from Michigan Technological University. Adrienne’s research interests include electrokinetics, predominantly dielectrophoretic characterizations of cells, and the development of biomedical microdevices. She earned a NSF CAREER award and was nominated for Michigan Professor of the Year in 2014. Research within her Medical micro-Device Engineering Research Laboratory (M.D. – ERL) also inspires the development of Desktop Experiment Modules (DEMos) for use in chemical engineering classrooms or as outreach activities in area schools (see Adrienne is currently co-Chair of ASEE's Diversity Committee and PIC I Chair; she has previously served on WIED, ChED, and NEE leadership teams and contributed to 37 ASEE conference proceedings articles.

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Student Led Example Problems in a Graduate-Level Advanced Transport Phenomena Course Most graduate-level curriculums in Chemical Engineering include a course on TransportPhenomena. A broadly utilized book for this course is Transport Phenomena by R. Byron Bird,Warren E. Stewart, and Edwin N. Lightfoot. The course relies upon prior knowledge in vectorand tensor algebra and calculus in addition to proficiency in ordinary differential equations, withan introductory familiarity with partial differential equations. Content covers momentum, heat,and mass transfer, which have parallel underlying mathematical representations of conservationprinciples. In this course, it is imperative for students to connect the physics of transport withthe mathematical representation of that physics. Since this course is typically taught in the first year of a graduate program and graduatestudents hail from around the globe, student preparation for the course can vary substantially.Experiences over the years have led this instructor to conclude that almost all students struggle atsome point with understanding the physics and connecting the physics to the math. Most prevailover this challenge by the end of the course. However, those who do not prevail aresimultaneously trying to make the physics/math connection while trying to correct substantialweaknesses in their math background. Slowing the course to review math negatively impacts thefinal proficiency of the entire student population in the course. However, facilitating content andstudy environments that enable students to relearn math techniques outside of class has increased(anecdotal observation from a sample size of 18-20 students per year for 3 years) the proficiencyand success of these weaker students. Student led example problems are a concerted effort to facilitate purpose-driven studyenvironments that increase understanding of the physics, the mathematical representation of thatphysics, and the required math skills. Student led example problems are also a mechanism to flipthis traditionally math intensive graduate classroom such that students are actively solvingproblems, practicing, and discussing the physics in the classroom with the assistance of fellowstudents and the instructor. Thus, prerecorded lectures by the instructor cover the fundamentalprinciples such that the students complete the first introduction to fundamental concepts andcontent outside of class. Class time has both instructor-led problem solving and student ledexample problems at a frequency of at least once per week. Students are provided structuredguidance on example preparation. The instructor reviews, with a rubric, the worked examplesand presentation materials for the class 2 days before the student’s present. The class evaluatesthe example and the student presenters with a strong emphasis on constructive feedback. Theprocess is open, interactive, and iterative to maximize learning by all participants. This paper will provide a practical roadmap based on this instructor’s three-year effort toflip a math-intensive graduate course. Anecdotal and quantitative assessment without a controlgroup will be presented. It is hoped that this paper will be thought-provoking and empoweringfor instructors of graduate core courses currently taught in a purely lecture format.

Minerick, A. (2015, June), Student-led Example Problems in a Graduate-level Advanced Transport Phenomena Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24766

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