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Work in Progress: A Vision for the First “Product Innovation Sequence” for Chemical Engineers

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Chemical Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1384.1 - 24.1384.9



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Paper Authors


Cheryl A. Bodnar University of Pittsburgh

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Cheryl A. Bodnar, PhD, CTDP is an Assistant Professor (Teaching Track) in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. She obtained her certification as a Training and Development Professional (CTDP) from the Canadian Society for Training and Development (CSTD) in 2010, providing her with a solid background in instructional design, facilitation and evaluation.
Dr. Bodnar’s research interests relate to the incorporation of active learning techniques in undergraduate classes (problem based learning, games and simulations, etc.) as well as integration of innovation and entrepreneurship into the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering as well as broader engineering curriculum. In addition, she is actively engaged in the development of a variety of informal science education approaches with the goal of exciting and teaching K-12 students about regenerative medicine and its potential.

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Eric J. Beckman University of Pittsburgh, Chemical Engineering Department

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Dr. Beckman assumed his faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh in 1989, was promoted to associate professor in 1994, and full professor in 1997. He received a Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation in 1992, and the Presidential Green Chemistry Award in 2002. He previously served as Associate Dean for Research for the School of Engineering and Chairman of Chemical Engineering. In 2003, Dr. Beckman co-founded the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, a school of engineering institute that examines the design of more sustainable infrastructure. In 2005, he co-founded Cohera Medical Inc. to commercialize surgical adhesive technology developed at the University. Dr. Beckman took an entrepreneurial leave of absence from the University in 2007-2009 to help move the products to market.

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Joseph J. McCarthy University of Pittsburgh

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Steven R. Little University of Pittsburgh

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Work in Progress: A Vision for the First “Product Innovation Sequence” for Chemical EngineersChemical engineers who enter the marketplace today are facing a vastly different reality thanthose who started their careers even five years ago. Keith Watson, (Senior Director, StrategicMarketing, Dow Chemical Company) noted in 2011, “The attributes needed to compete foremployment in the modern chemical industry have changed. However, the curriculum at mosttraditional Western universities does not necessarily reflect these new dynamics.” The majorityof chemical engineering programs today do not leave room within their curriculum for studentsto be able to adequately explore the concept of chemical product design and how novel ideas canbecome the basis for new businesses. In fact, out of the 158 ABET accredited chemicalengineering programs in the US, only 25 offer chemical product design classes. This state ofaffairs presents a stark contrast with mechanical, industrial, and even bioengineering programs,where product design has been a routine part of the curriculum for decades.In response to this need, the chemical engineering program at a mid-Atlantic University hastaken the initiative to re-design its chemical product design senior level course and expand uponit to create a three-year, chemical “Product Innovation Sequence”. This course sequence willstart with required courses in both the sophomore and junior year followed by a senior yearelective for those students who are particularly interested in this field of study. The novel natureof this curriculum is found in its coupling of scaffolding techniques to encourage students tobuild and develop their chemical product design skills progressively as they go through thecourse sequence, the experiential nature of the final senior level prototyping course and the effortto provide mentorship opportunities between students in different years of the course sequence.One of the key features of this new experiential product innovation sequence for chemicalengineers is the showcasing of the role of the customer within the design process which can oftenbe an afterthought in engineering design. The sophomore level class focuses exclusively onconcepts related to the front end portion of chemical product design including: customeridentification and needs, brainstorming and decision making processes. The junior level coursein the sequence focuses on the fundamentals necessary to perform chemical product designincluding formulations, heuristics and life cycle analysis for the development of more sustainableproducts. This course also includes elements important to small business development such asintellectual property, commercialization plans and how to deliver a business pitch. Finally, inthe senior level prototyping course, students will be given the opportunity to create a physicalprototype of their product and work alongside a faculty mentor on the development of their ownbusiness model. This course sequence provides a “safe” environment for chemical engineeringstudents to get a real taste of what starting your own business might be like prior to entering intothe marketplace. It is believed that this first-of-its-kind “Product Innovation Sequence” willbuild not only a culture of entrepreneurship that permeates all levels of education (fromsophomores to graduate student TAs to faculty), but also produce a new generation of alumnibetter equipped to work in today’s marketplace, whether they choose to work within an existingcompany or venture out on their own.

Bodnar, C. A., & Beckman, E. J., & McCarthy, J. J., & Little, S. R. (2014, June), Work in Progress: A Vision for the First “Product Innovation Sequence” for Chemical Engineers Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23317

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