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Teaching Engineering Economics through Role Play in a Senior Design Class

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ASEE Mid-Atlantic Section Spring Conference


George Washington University, District of Columbia

Publication Date

April 19, 2024

Start Date

April 19, 2024

End Date

April 20, 2024

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Gautom Kumar Das University of Maryland Baltimore County

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Dr. Gautom Das is a Lecturer in the Chemical, Biochemical and Environmental Engineering at UMBC. Prior to joining UMBC, he was a Research Scientist and Lecturer in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Rice University, and a Post-doctoral Scholar at the University of California, Davis. He earned his PhD in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. He has worked in research laboratories in the US, Canada, and Singapore; developed nanomaterials for multimodal and deep tissue imaging, and biosensing applications.

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Engineering economics plays a crucial role in senior design courses across chemical engineering curricula, with ABET mandating that engineering graduates incorporate economic factors into their capstone designs [1]. A 2022 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, titled 'New Directions for Chemical Engineering,' highlights the importance of business skills, economics, and entrepreneurial skills as essential components of the undergraduate curriculum, as indicated by young professionals surveyed [2]. These skills are considered critical alongside core curriculum and soft skills such as teamwork.

The fundamentals of engineering economics empower engineers to make informed decisions not only in process configurations and material selection but also in financial matters in their professional and personal lives [3]. At our institution, the first part of senior design (Design-I) class serves as the primary exposure to the fundamentals of economics for most chemical engineering students. However, due to a lack of prior exposure and the influence of everyday experiences, lack of proper understanding persist among the students. Notably, two fundamental concepts (sometimes misconceptions) have been identified: (i) the distinction between interest and inflation, and (iii) understanding depreciation and for the tax purpose why it is a positive cash flow.

This study investigates the efficacy of two teaching strategies employed by the author: (i) role-playing in selected in-class problem-solving scenarios, with student groups assuming roles such as Bankers, Lenders, Stakeholders, and Investors, and (ii) grading selected in-class problems to enhance student participation and active learning. These strategies were designed to address the two concepts, recognized as both significant and challenging for students to master. Student comprehension was assessed through quizzes and the recently published Concept Inventory (CI) [4]. Comparison of the data with a control group (Fall 2022 class, n = 59) revealed notable improvements in the performance of the treated group (Fall 2023, n = 32). Quiz scores increased from 48.9% to 68.1%, and a mid-term exam grades also demonstrated significant improvement, with the average score rising from 69.8% to 81.2%. Improvement of mid-term grade is attributed to the increased active learning facilitated by in-class problem solving. The data presented above may attribute any learning gains in each of the targeted concept areas that we are trying to understand.

[1]. [2]. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. New Directions for Chemical Engineering. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. [3]. Zoghi, S. (2015). Engineering economics and its role in the engineering curricula. ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings. [4]. Bursic, K. M. (2020). An engineering economy concept inventory. Engineering Economist, 65(3), 179–194.

Das, G. K. (2024, April), Teaching Engineering Economics through Role Play in a Senior Design Class Paper presented at ASEE Mid-Atlantic Section Spring Conference, George Washington University, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--45739

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