S10-DISC5-4 - Bridging Theory and Practice on a Budget: A model for delivering practical knowledge through partnership with an on-campus facility

2. Research-to-Practice Work In Progress
Katie Russell1
1 Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department, Tulane Univeristy

Presented in this Research to Practice, Work in Progress paper is a model for utilizing on-campus facilities to cost-effectively incorporate impactful, experiential learning into the engineering curriculum. Within the engineering curriculum, courses designed for hands-on engineering practice traditionally utilize benchtop educational units; whereas, real-world experiences are proven to promote more impactful active participation; developing the notoriously difficult to teach traits desired by industry such as critical thinking, troubleshooting ability, and foundational soft skills. Unfortunately, the purchase, setup, and maintenance of large, pilot-scale units within a teaching laboratory is often not feasible due to increased financial requirements. 

article specifically highlights the development and implementation of a partnership with Tulane University’s Power Plant as part of the junior-level Unit Operations Laboratory in the Chemical Engineering curriculum. The Power Plant experiments presented here are relevant to a wide range of engineering disciplines, and the general proof of concept is broadly applicable. Equipment available at the University’s Power Plant includes a large-scale co-generation unit, chillers, water purification system, and cooling towers; with associated experiments demonstrating practical applications of heat and momentum transfer, engineering economics, process control, unit operation optimization, and collection and analysis of data from the field and control room floor. This was also the first opportunity for many students to interact with plant operators and engineers—exposing them to practical skills, fostering teamwork, managerial skills, and communication.

Student self-assessment of ABET student outcomes showed an increased level of attainment after implementation of the Power Plant experience. These results support the need to provide students with real-world laboratory modules to increase attainment of knowledge and enhance the overall engineering education experience. The partnership demonstrated here achieves this without the burden of additional expenditure: providing students with a unique opportunity to step outside of the lab and work with full-scale industrial equipment on-campus. Moving forward it would be of interest to transition the entire UO Lab experience over to multiple real-world facilities.