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Use Of News Stories As Case Studies For Teaching Engineering Analysis

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Tricks of the Trade

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1390.1 - 10.1390.10



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Paper Authors

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Ramesh Chawla

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


Use of News Stories as Case Studies for Teaching Engineering Analysis

Ramesh C. Chawla Department of Chemical Engineering, Howard University, Washington, DC 20059


Freshman engineering students take a two-course sequence of Introduction to Engineering courses in their first two semesters. The first course is a general course common to all disciplines and the second course is discipline-specific.

In the first course, the students are introduced to various topics including career options in various engineering fields, communication skills, ethics, intellectual property, problem solving, critical thinking and time management. Team projects (paper design and design & build) are a major part of the course. In the second course of the introductory sequence, chemical engineering students are exposed to chemical process design from an overall standpoint. Techniques of process synthesis and analysis are used to develop critical thinking skills for comparative analysis of potential alternatives. In addition to teaching elementary principles of various chemical engineering fundamentals, situations dealing with the importance of safety, ethics, economics and environmental issues are frequently incorporated in the design process. Current news stories provide a valuable resource as case studies for developing analytical skills in these areas.

Some of the recent examples of case studies based on news stories include overturning of a truck carrying chemical waste on the Capitol Beltway, high lead concentrations in the Washington, DC drinking water supply, and a chemical train explosion in Iran.

The students are assigned a homework assignment or a mini project to answer specific questions/objectives on the news story. A class discussion, after the submission of assignments, drives home the intricate points of analysis, along with potential extensions of the original physical situation. The case studies also provide an opportunity to introduce or review some of the related underlying principles in class, before the assignment is due. When presented in applied context related to real life situations, the students are more interested in learning the concepts.

These case studies have proved to be an interesting and informative tool in teaching the importance of ethics, safety, economics and environment to engineering problem solving. The depth and breadth of technical analysis can be adjusted to the level of the class from freshmen to seniors. In this paper, examples of these case studies and use of this approach in teaching engineering analysis will be presented.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Chawla, R. (2005, June), Use Of News Stories As Case Studies For Teaching Engineering Analysis Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15051

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