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Work in Progress: Fostering a Chemical Engineering Mindset through Hands-on Activities

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Work in Progress: Assessment, Evaluation and Hands-on Activities

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Julianne Vernon Vanderbilt University

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Assistant Dean Vernon works in the field of STEM educational research; some areas of focus include student retention and implementation of innovative pedagogy and technology. She is currently the Assistant Dean of Academic programs overseeing the First Year Courses, Study Abroad Programs, and International Initiatives at Vanderbilt University. She received her Bachelors in Chemical Engineering from the City College of New York and her Doctorate degree at University of Florida in Environmental Engineering. She has over 8 years of experience developing international and national research experiences for STEM majors, as well as project management.

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Matthew Rogers Vanderbilt University

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Benjamin Joseph Saba

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Yin Huang

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This project will focus on the Chemical Engineering module of Introduction to Engineering. In the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Dept., two sections of this course have been offered previously. The style of the course has been predominately lecture-based. When asked to describe the Chemical Engineering module, student focus groups did not remember what was taught in the module and labeled them as “not engaging”. In contrast, students were able to recall activities and projects from the other departmental modules. In this project, one of the two sections of this course was redesigned to include predominately hands-on activities that connect to chemical engineering concepts, such as conservation of mass and surface tension, and ultimately to a chemical engineering job. The activities were designed to engage students’ curiosity and connection to what chemical engineers do in the real world. The goal is that this new style of the Chemical Engineering module will better engage students and give insight to what chemical engineers do beyond graduation. The first-year experience for our engineering program is a 3-credit course in the Fall called Introduction to Engineering, in addition to the common physics, math, and chemistry courses. The Introduction to Engineering course is broken into three modules, each consisting of 14 sessions. Each department offers 1-3 different sections of a departmental-themed module. Students select 3 different department modules for the semester. Students are advised to select majors that they have not considered, as well as areas that pique their interests. One of the main goals of the course is to showcase each major by demonstrating what students will learn and potential jobs after graduation. The departments use these courses to get students excited about the major. Ultimately, at the end this course, students will have enough information to make a comfortable decision on choosing a major. In the past, the Chemical Engineering module has been predominately lecture-based, and students felt it did not get them excited about the major. This may have deterred some undecided students from choosing to pursue chemical engineering. The hands-on activities were developed the summer prior to the course. Rising sophomore and senior students worked with the instructor to develop and create hands-on activities that can fit in a 50-minute class session. Each of the activities was tied to a chemical engineering concept that will be taught in one of the junior-level courses or laboratories. In this study, approximately 70 students took the intervention section of the course. The control section, which was predominately lecture-based, had approximately 90 students. Students in both sections were asked to take pre- and post-surveys that measured their curiosity. In addition, students in the intervention course participated in homework assignments that asked them to connect chemical engineering to the real world. Analysis of the students’ assignments will show to what level students were able to connect chemical engineering concepts to industry and job markets based on the new hands-on activity style of the course. We will also investigate if the three different sections, gender, and established majors prior to the course influenced students’ curiosity and connectivity.

Vernon, J., & Rogers, M., & Saba, B. J., & Huang, Y. (2020, June), Work in Progress: Fostering a Chemical Engineering Mindset through Hands-on Activities Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35639

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