Semester-long Concept Development Projects in Chemical Engineering Electives Course

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Chemical Engineering


Elective courses in the chemical engineering curriculum can serve many purposes that include exposure to a specialized topic, survey of diverse topics, and/or enhancing the problem solving skills. This paper will describe the use of a semester long project which serves the purpose of increasing depth of knowledge in a specialized topic, contextualization within a broader field, as well as a new skill-set. The specialized topic is an Analytical Microdevice Technology elective course, which is structured to reinforce concepts from transport, unit operations, and plant (i.e. microdevice) courses – at the microscale. The topic is contextualized within the broader field by using example devices pulled by the students from the scientific literature, then outlining connections to traditional chemical engineering concepts and applicability in consumer/other markets. The new skills include problem solving skills, information filtering skills, and logic skills as well as practice linking unique concepts together. Regular discussions and guidance are provided to the students via biweekly reports that are structured to build sequentially from general project concept to substantial depth in each supporting technology utilized in the project. Simulations or experiments are completed by the students on the final concept, as appropriate. The concept development projects are a concerted effort to strategically develop these skills in Chemical Engineering students. Students work in mixed graduate and undergraduate student teams to develop a novel concept via independent reading, discussion, and mini-lectures. A majority of the content in the course is student-driven and is developed dynamically based on the technologies that the student pull into their projects. This work is based on the premise that engagement of students in critical thinking and independent information gathering exercises increases student awareness of and excitement for chemical engineering and the likelihood of engaging in life-long learning in an industrial or academic setting. This paper will provide descriptions of how the project process is managed and guided as well as assessments of student learning and attitudes.

Publication Title

Proceedings of 2013 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition