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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