University of Zaragoza (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN20 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Page: 4198
ISBN: 978-84-09-17979-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2020.1117
Conference name: 12th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-7 July, 2020
Location: Online Conference
Chemical engineers have the commitment of designing and operating chemical processes to transform raw materials into valuable chemicals. The operation of the chemical reactor is the core of many chemical processes, where unit operations are also required to prepare the reactants for the proper reaction conditions or to separate the products from the reactor effluent. Then, chemical engineers rely on their knowledge about the reactor design to overcome technical problems safely. At Universidad de Zaragoza Chemical Engineering Master students develop the knowledge and skills to design and operate chemical reactors in the course entitled Reactor Advanced Design (66211). This course is focused on 9 basic pillars of Chemical Reactor design and its outcomes include that the students will be able to:
1) Learn the general considerations in the design of heterogeneous reactors,
2) Learn the basics of process intensification and
3) Asses and propose reactor operation conditions to achieve a specific objective under safely reaction conditions and learn the different scale-up approaches.
Heterogeneous reactors based on two-phase and multiphase, generally using solid catalysts, are the most common reaction technologies implemented on industrial scale. Then, it is indispensable that students acquire a solid knowledge from the reactor design course to develop their skills in their professional career. Since there are a plethora of different chemical reactors, which call on different solving problem skills, learning methodologies should also vary. In this case, special attention was given to different case solving studies, which will be able to develop metacognitive skills along the problem solving process. This type of activities are important because the students not only are able to find the right problem solution but also are able to develop the ability to understand, monitor and regulate their own learning process.

In order to know how students can develop their solving problems skills, we conducted a preliminary research in the course. Then, the main feedback to design the problem-solving learning environments was given by the analysis of the results achieved in the examination problems in the later years of the course (2016-2020). From this analysis, we designed new contents and several activities were planned to improve problem-solving skills, as well as improve the understating of key concepts related to chemical reactor design. These planned activities included: a collection of the most common mistakes in calculations and chemical reactor design rules, lectures modification and case studies of the most relevant chemical reactor designs. Learning outcomes assessment was carried out by monitoring the individual progress along the course. However, it was also the problem exam evaluation the form to provide a feedback about the student ability to solve reactor design problems as well as their skills to arrive to the correct solution.

The analysis from the results highlights that the proposed activities have improved the problem-solving skills to design chemical reactors. Although there is room to improve the results, the positive advances achieved act as a motivator to improve further the implementation of new problem-solving activities.

The authors wish to express their gratitude to the Universidad de Zaragoza for the project conceded (PIIDUZ_19_484).
Problem-solving skills, problem-solving activities, chemical engineering, chemical reactor.