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The Effect Of Improvements In Sophomore Design Instruction On Performance In Subsequent Course Offerings

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

New Trends in CHE Education I

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1205.1 - 14.1205.16



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Paper Authors


Kevin Dahm Rowan University

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Kevin Dahm joined the Rowan University Chemical Engineering Department in 1999 after earning his B.S. at WPI (92) and his PhD at MIT (98). He has published papers in the areas of assessment of student learning, process simulation in the curriculum, and the teaching of design and engineering economics. He has received the 2003 Martin Award, the 2004 Fahien Award and the 2005 Corcoran Award from the Chemical Engineering Division of ASEE.

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William Riddell Rowan University

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



The chemical engineering curriculum at Rowan University includes a team-taught, multidisciplinary sophomore course sequence called Sophomore Engineering Clinic I and II, intended to teach engineering design and technical communication. Prior to 2005, Sophomore Clinic I featured a semester-long design project. The faculty team made substantial changes to the course in the Fall of 2005 to address various shortcomings in student achievement of the course goals. The new course design featured a 4-week project intended to introduce students to the process of parametric design, followed by a 10-week project similar to the former semester- long project. The course also implemented an explicit model for the design process; the Converging-Diverging model for design proposed by Dym in 20051. Students were required to document specific design activities, characterize these activities as either convergent or divergent thinking, and demonstrate how their design decisions were informed by both.

A previous ASEE publication2 demonstrated that the revised Sophomore Clinic I led to dramatic improvement in student designs, as well as being more popular with the students. This paper will address whether the changes implemented in the Fall of 2005 had a lasting impact beyond Sophomore Clinic I. The other two required courses in the chemical engineering curriculum that have substantial design content are Sophomore Clinic II and the senior capstone design course. The Fall 2004 and Fall 2005 Sophomore Clinic cohorts have now completed the curriculum. This paper presents a comparison of their performances in Sophomore Clinic II and Chemical Plant Design, as well as summarizing the converging-diverging model for design and the specific changes made in the Fall of 2005.


The Sophomore Engineering Clinic is a sequence of two team-taught, four semester-hour courses. The faculty team for each semester consists of at least two instructors from the College of Communication and at least five from the College of Engineering, with each of the four Rowan engineering disciplines (Chemical, Civil and Environmental, Mechanical, Electrical and Computer) represented. Each student has two 75-minute lecture periods and one 160-minute lab period per week.

During the lab periods, students work on design projects, supervised by engineering faculty. Lecturing is provided as-needed to instruct students on design principles and facilitate the projects, but the bulk of the lab time is provided for students to work with their teams. During lecture periods, Communication faculty provide instruction on technical communication (technical writing in Sophomore Clinic I, public speaking in Sophomore Clinic II) using the design projects as a context. Many of the course deliverables for Sophomore Clinic I and II are writing assignments and presentations about the design projects, which are graded jointly by engineering and communication faculty. This two-course sequence is consistent with growing national trends of integrating design into the early years of the curriculum3,4,5 and stressing the importance of communication skills6,7,8. The sole learning objectives of the course are

Dahm, K., & Riddell, W. (2009, June), The Effect Of Improvements In Sophomore Design Instruction On Performance In Subsequent Course Offerings Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4558

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