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Open-ended Problems in Chemical Reaction Engineering

by H. Scott Fogler and S.E. Leblanc

The open-ended problems complement the normal engineering course examples and homework problems, which are more closed-ended in nature and are designed to reinforce the basic scientific and engineering principles presented in class lectures and textbooks. While such closed-ended problems provide practice for the development of convergent thinking skills, they do not provide practice for improving the students divergent-thinking patterns. These latter types of intellectual skills are essential for the solution of the industrial and research problems that the student will face after graduation. The chance of a capstone senior design course successfully providing sufficient practice to develop these skills are vanishingly small. However, by providing a means to practice these skills in every core course, a significant improvement will be made in the way students generate creative solutions and ideas for the problems and situations they encounter. Because many of the problems are worked in groups of 2-4 students and a report is expected for each problem, a framework is provided to enhance the students interpersonal and communication skills in every course.


We feel that assigning one open-ended problem per chemical engineering course will provide a means of developing innovative engineering graduates. We also feel that the student must be taught techniques to define and solve open-ended problems. Consequently, to accompany the open-ended problems, we have developed a book entitled Strategies for Creative Problem Solving, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1994. The book presents a heuristic and discusses each robust problem solving component in detail. The heuristic gives a number of proven techniques for problem definition and solution generation.


This book, Open-ended Problems in Chemical Reaction Engineering, contains eleven open-ended problems, many of which were assigned to University of Michigan undergraduate chemical engineering students over the last few years. For some of the problems, we have also included representative solutions developed by the teams of students that worked on these problems. In addition, we have included seven creative and challenging final exam problems developed by undergraduate chemical engineering students.

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