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Using Degrees of Freedom as a Pervasive Strategy for Improving Problems Solving

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Introductory Experiences in Chemical Engineering

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1661.1 - 26.1661.17



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Paper Authors


Joseph J. Biernacki Tennessee Technological University

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Dr. Biernacki is full Professor of Chemical Engineering at Tennessee Tech University (TTU). Prior to joining TTU in 1997 he spent 15 years work for British Petroleum in various capacities. He is keenly interested in engineering education, particularly in improving problem solving skills through the use of methodologies and formalisms that enable and promote critical thinking.

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Using Degrees of Freedom as a Pervasive Strategy for Improving Problems SolvingJoseph Biernacki, Chemical Engineering, Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, TNChemical engineering educators have known for decades that the degrees of freedom conceptis a powerful tool for organizing the solution of complex problems involving mass and energyconservation. Unfortunately, the degrees of freedom concept seems to be relegated to ourcourse on heat and material balances and then somehow forgotten elsewhere. Withoutsuitable practice, most chemical engineering students will lay aside the degrees of freedomformalisms that most learn in their sophomore year and will revert to hunt-and-peck strategiesfor solving problems, even when properly trained originally. A more pervasive and deliberateapproach, however, is needed if we expect to improve problem solving skills and impart lasting“ways of being” in our students. A number of structured examples will be presented toillustrate the utility of the degrees of freedom concept across curricular content

Biernacki, J. J. (2015, June), Using Degrees of Freedom as a Pervasive Strategy for Improving Problems Solving Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24997

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