Most CHE courses and labs incorporate design, which addresses real-world problems with solutions that require creativity and consideration of alternatives to achieve objectives. Most students are introduced to the concept of design in their sophomore or junior year through individual design projects, for which students are asked to design a system or a component that satisfies specified constraints.
Examples of courses that include a specific design project include, but are not limited to, Fluid Mechanics (CHE 114), Heat Transfer (ENGR 116), Engineering Modeling and Analysis (ENGR 118), Separation Processes (CHE 117) and Process Control (CHE 118). Specific design projects are based on material covered in the course. The design usually includes the following components: a) converting the design problem into quantifiable statements, b) formulating the equations that govern the design, c) developing assumptions necessary for solving the problem, and collecting the necessary information from vendors, books, publications, etc., d) selecting a method for and solving the design problem (analytically, numerically), e) critically reviewing and optimizing the design including ethical concerns and operation and maintenance considerations, and f) writing a summary report, and in select cases presenting results in front of the class.
These individual design projects prepare students for the capstone design project. The culmination of the students’ design experience is the two-quarter capstone design course, CHE/ENVE 175A and 175B, in which students draw upon various aspects of their previous engineering science and design knowledge to address a meaningful design problem. Students learn to define the objectives (in a global context), explore possible options, plan and conduct experiments if needed, formulate preliminary solutions, and evaluate proposed alternatives with respect to economics, feasibility, societal, health and safety impacts, and sustainability.
This approach may require a number of iterations before a final comparative solution is achieved. Senior design projects are always team projects (usually three students). Chemical and environmental engineering students are encouraged to form mixed groups to promote diversity and a multidisciplinary approach. CHE 175A and 175B are run in a very professional manner. Each team maintains a chronological log of project work (to demonstrate the evolution of their design), submit timesheets and bimonthly reports consisting of 10-minute oral presentations (similar to an internal review in a consulting form) and a 1-3 page technical memo.
Bimonthly oral presentations as well as an end-of-first-quarter team oral presentation (15-20 minutes) are critiqued to provide feedback for developing effective communication skills. The first quarter (CHE 175A) focuses on project (concept) analysis, preliminary evaluation (economical and technical), data and literature collection, preliminary process design and evaluation, and becoming functional in simulation software packages such as PROII and SuperPro for modeling of an entire treatment plant.
The first quarter also includes risk analysis, occupational health and safety of treatment systems, environmental and ethical concerns, sustainability concepts and operation and maintenance considerations. The second quarter (CHE 175B) of the capstone design course focuses on the detailed engineering design of the process (equipment sizing and specification, etc.), comprehensive profitability evaluation and process optimization, in addition to ethics issues in the profession. In some cases, students build a prototype of their design concepts and prove the concept by laboratory experiments and obtain the kinetics of a treatment system required for scaling up to a full-scale system using simulation software to model steady state processes.
Monitoring and assessment of ethical professional conduct are done with written and confidential self-group assessments, which are provided to the instructor and done twice each quarter. This provides students with a means to learn to work productively in teams by addressing professional and personality issues that may arise throughout the capstone design course, much like conflicts that arise in a real world setting. The course concludes with a formal oral presentation (30-40 minutes), which is evaluated by the faculty, and a comprehensive written technical report.