Engineering a Solution

Sep 14, 2020

With experiential learning key, a curated kit meets a distance learning challenge.

Tsutomu "Shimo" Shimotori, assistant professor, is used to finding solutions. So when the Swenson College of Science and Engineering dean asked her faculty to prepare for all online teaching, Shimotori started packing.

Professor Shimotori with his kit's computerShimtori teaches a section of ChE3211 Chemical Engineering Laboratory this fall. Each of his 19 students in the course received a package not much bigger than a shoe box that contained materials for experiments– including heat transfer, fluid mechanics, and separation. All are safe, but quantitative. "That's very important for engineers. We need numbers," explains Shimotori.  Shimotori developed the kit by building on simpler experiments designed by his colleague Mike Rother.

For example, the heat transfer experiment involves manageable tools like insulated and non-insulated cups. Students measure the temperature of hot water in a cup as it cools down. The data is automatically collected by a temperature sensor connected to an Arduino Uno microcontroller. All of these supplies are included in the kit.

The lesson is the same that Shimotori's students would receive in the lab, even through the tools are much simpler. And Shimotori's happy to ensure that his students have those tools. "We shouldn't assume that students have the same resources that their professors do," he explains. "Our responsibility is to provide hands-on learning."

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