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Saturday, Dec 20, 2014

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Dr. Young and students

Dr. Valerie Young talks to a group of students in the freshman introductory chemical engineering course.

Photographer: Rebecca F. Miller

Freshman chemical engineering students

Freshman chemical engineering students collaborate on designing a way to separate a mixture of beads to simulate how chemical engineers separate mixtures into their pure components.

Photographer: Rebecca F. Miller

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Freshman chemical engineering students get a taste of design


Freshmen in the introductory chemical engineering course at Ohio University's Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology are learning more than just the principles of applied chemistry – they're learning to work as a team on their freshman design projects.

"Getting them to wrestle with teamwork and technical communication early will prepare them to be successful in those areas after graduation," said Associate Professor Valerie Young, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the instructor for the CHE 1000 course. "In an interview for a co-op, internship or permanent job, when they're asked to talk about a time when they had to work as a team to accomplish a goal, they'll have this experience to talk about."

An opportunity for the students to engage with design their first year of college, the course introduces them to the types of problems chemical engineers solve and the types of thought processes and approaches chemical engineers use to solve them.

Inspired by a Chemical Engineering Education magazine article, Young tasked the two teams in this year's class to design and build automated separators that can separate a mixture of items into pure components by taking advantage of their differing properties – in this case, separating a mix of beads into their respective pure groups by physical characteristics.

Each team gets a mixture of six small items: plastic aquarium "jewels," two sizes of wooden beads, steel ball bearings, tiny nylon "seed beeds," and wax beads for candle making. Teams will demonstrate their inventions during finals next week.

"Recovery of pure components from mixtures is something chemical engineers do frequently, though we're often exploiting differences in chemical rather than physical properties," said Young. "The concept is the same, but I can't send the students off on their own with a mixture of hazardous chemicals to separate."

Freshman Natalie Tzap can identify how the course is preparing her. ""Taking this course has made me realize how important getting together with other people for a common goal is to the engineering world," Tzap said.