A.B. Moldes, R. Devesa-Rey, J.M. Cruz

University of Vigo (SPAIN)
The main goal of introductory Chemical Engineering courses is to establish the basic foundations of fluid flow, heat transfer and mass transfer of the basic principles and major unit operations. Also, in many subjects of Science and Engineering, students have to undertake experiments in a laboratory as part of the course. Lab works should give to the students “hands on” experience in the use of equipment and experimental techniques and also allow to the students make links between the object/event world and the theory/model world. The main goals as engineering educators should include equipping students with problem-solving, communication, teamwork, self-assessment, change management and lifelong learning skills [1]. Suitable approaches for laboratory courses should include collecting and analyzing experimental data to understand unit operations; developing written communication skills by presenting experimental results in written reports; working in teams in a safe and productive environment; applying principles of design; and learning to use scientific computer software. However, although there seems to be a general agreement that laboratories are necessary, there is also a lack of consensus on the basic objectives they have to accomplish [2]. So, most of the times students have to developed different experiments following a protocol in few days and they do not generalize in a scientifically epistemic manner and they do not make links between the object/event world and the theory/model world.

This paper proposes the reduction of the number of experiments carried out in the laboratory to increase the number of hours employed in a single experiment to solve a specific problem. In subjects for example with 15 hours of experiments in laboratory, we propose that students design their own experimental work employing statistical software like Statgraphics based on response surface methodology. In particular, the paper considers the application of an experimental design employing scientific software like Statgraphics to mimic the management of polluted effluents from industries, so students will relate “real world” into an otherwise theoretical education. The main laboratory skills developed under the framework of this course will be problem-working, communication and teamwork. So, a sequential learning is proposed, where students will gain understanding in linear steps, with each step following logically from the previous one. This will make students to follow logical stepwise paths in finding solutions, strengthening their global thinking skills by relating each new topic with the things they already know.

[1] Woods, D.R., Felder, R.M., Rugarcia, A., Stice, J.E. (2000). The future of engineering education III. Developing critical skills. Chemical Engineering Education 34(2), 108-117.
[2] Feisel, L.D., Rosa, A.J. (2005). The Role of the Laboratory in Undergraduate Engineering Education. Journal of Engineering Education 121-130.