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The River Project: an Open-Ended Engineering Design Challenge from Bench-Scale to Pilot-Scale

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Hands-On Projects and Demos

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Lucas James Landherr Northeastern University

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Dr. Lucas Landherr is an associate teaching professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University, conducting research in engineering education.

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Courtney Pfluger Northeastern University

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Dr. Courtney Pfluger received her Doctoral degree in Chemical Engineering from Northeastern
University in 2011. In the fall of 2011, she took a position as an Assistant Teaching Professor at
Northeastern University in the College of Engineering as a part of the First Year Engineering Faculty with
a focus on chemical engineering. She has taught the first year courses, Engineering Design and
Engineering Problem Solving, and Chemical Engineering Process Controls and Conservation Principles courses. In the summer of 2013, she developed and ran a faculty led Dialogue of Civilizations program to Brazil where she taught two courses that focused on Sustainable Energy Technologies and Brazilian Culture. This program has successfully ran for 5 years and continuing!
She was instrumental in the development of the curriculum redesign of the first year program called the Cornerstones of Engineering. In the fall of 2014, she piloted a section of the Cornerstones of Engineering that was focused on sustainability as the theme. The pilot course of the redesign of the first year curriculum was successful and has now been implemented to all first year engineering students at
Dr. Pfluger has also spent her time volunteering as Faculty Advisor for the American Institute of
Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and ChemE Car student groups. The ChemE Car team competes annually at the AIChE regional conference. The NU-AIChE student group organizes many Chemical Engineering and College of Engineering community building activities throughout the year.

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Ryan A Koppes Northeastern University

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Northeastern University has developed a two-semester approach to the Unit Operations Laboratory introducing different modes of learning through a Discovery, Development and Design approach. Students are introduced to broader concepts that allow them to develop skills in designing experiments and analyses (discovery), build upon those concepts while working on equipment to address specific problem statements (development), and then apply their knowledge and experience in designing an experiment, unit operation, or system (design). The first semester focuses on fluid mechanics, and the second semester, emphasizes heat and mass transfer and separations. The culmination of these two semesters is a four-week design challenge on water remediation. For this project, students design and build a small circulating river system with multiple design characteristics, such as including stagnation, rapids, and an environmental setting (e.g. rural vs. urban). The student teams then select a pollution scenario (run-off or point-source, and sewage waste or industrial waste) which they will then have to design a treatment system for in order to meet the clean-water standards for rivers as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency. Simulated pollutants containing both chemical and particulate contaminants with unknown compositions are provided to the students for them to conduct bench scale testing as they design and construct their treatment system to address pH, dissolved oxygen concentration, conductivity, turbidity, and temperature. Using basic chemicals and novel filtration designs, students implement an integrated understanding of fluid mechanics, mass transfer, separations, thermodynamics, and kinetics in order to characterize their systems and execute their remediation systems over two trials within their river. The project concludes with a technical report written as from a company to a town council to propose their full-scale treatment system. The project also finishes with a novel presentation in which the student teams must give a town hall-style presentation and defend their proposed treatment system to an audience of upper classmen, faculty, and alumni, who act as local citizens and ask probing and demanding questions of the presenters. Our presentation will describe the methods, details, and assessment of a unique and fulfilling laboratory module.

Landherr, L. J., & Pfluger, C., & Koppes, R. A. (2018, June), The River Project: an Open-Ended Engineering Design Challenge from Bench-Scale to Pilot-Scale Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31122

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