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Teaching Chemical Engineering Concepts to Nonchemical Engineers: Indigo: A World of Blues

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Emerging Areas: Biotechnology, Microtechnology, and Energy

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1375.1 - 22.1375.12



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Paper Authors


Polly R. Piergiovanni Lafayette College

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Polly R. Piergiovanni is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Lafayette College. She teaches the introductory engineering and chemical engineering courses, as well as process control. Her research interests include process control, biochemical engineering and the dyeing process.

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Teaching Chemical Engineering Concepts to Nonchemical Engineers Indigo: A World of Blues A Chemical Engineering Course For Nonengineers Dip white fabric in the muddy-colored indigo dye vat, and the cloth emerges green, then slowly turns azure, cobalt or sapphire before your eyes. The chemistry behind this reaction will be revealed – and practiced – in this course. This mysterious dye has an intriguing history, and we will study its societal and environmental impact from antiquity to the present. We will explore the use of indigo by different cultures, and each student will have the opportunity to replicate one of the techniques used to dye fabric with indigo. We will learn about the equipment used in producing indigo dye, and the three sources of indigo: synthetic, natural, and biosynthetic. The course will culminate with the design of a new indigo production facility. Students will need to determine what type of indigo to produce, the location of the facility (i.e., rural or populated area? How will it impact the population?), what environmental concerns to consider and other aspects of a new facility.This course description was provided to all sophomore students at x who were notengineers – and 15 of them chose to enroll in the course. Several of the students had nottaken any lab science courses in college and over half had not had a math course sincehigh school. A few were chemical engineering majors. How does one teach processengineering to such a diverse group?The first step was to determine what I wanted to communicate to the students; that is, Ineeded to establish learning outcomes. I selected the following objectives:By the end of the semester, students will be able to: 1. Use multiple perspectives to answer important questions about a complicated problem 2. Explain the chemical differences between dyeing with indigo and dyeing with other natural dyes 3. Create a process flow diagram, identify major process equipment and explain briefly how they work 4. Write a technically competent laboratory report on the processes studied 5. Show an understanding of what a professional is and the ethical responsibilities of a professionalEach week, the students spent two hours in class and two hours in the lab. Many activelearning exercises were developed for the class time, and I created seven laboratoryexperiences. This paper will present the descriptions of the active learning and laboratoryexercises, an assessment of the results and lessons learned from teaching engineering tostudents who are not engineers. At the end of the semester, the students had done well inthe course, one girl was no longer as afraid of chemistry, and I could conclude this wasmy favorite course to teach. I look forward to teaching it again.

Piergiovanni, P. R. (2011, June), Teaching Chemical Engineering Concepts to Nonchemical Engineers: Indigo: A World of Blues Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18369

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