AN EXAMPLE OF SUCCESSFUL USE OF SIMULATIONS INTO CHEMICAL ENGINEERING CORE MATTERS
Unit operations and chemical kinetics are core matters in any Chemical Engineering study program. However, they may entail abstract concepts and complex calculations that, if not properly addressed, discourage the students and make them abandon these subjects. In that sense, traditional lecturer-centered teaching methods bore students and, as a result, do not bring about successful learning. Fortunately, the use of computer simulations as a teaching resource in Chemical Engineering may prevent the students from showing a slack attitude in the classroom, and help create a better atmosphere.
Based on the above idea, this study aimed to implement simulations-aided teaching strategies as a way to enhance knowledge acquisition and improve students’ predisposition to learn. We herein report three specific examples. An Excel simulation of an industrial evaporator allowed the students to learn how this unit really operates, rather than just memorizing the traditional problem-solving procedures described in textbooks. Moreover, the use of Aspen Plus simulations for azeotropic distillation enabled an easy and fast manipulation of the key process variables, thus demonstrating their unique capability to explore “what-if” scenarios. Finally, Python proved successful at clarifying the core ideas of the kinetic theory of gases and the origin of the basic kinetic laws studied in chemical kinetics. Survey results and students’ feedback allows us to conclude that, in general, these approaches engaged students’ interest and help them reinforce the fundamentals.