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Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering honors Design Presentation Competition winners, dedicates Distillation Column to BP

The Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering honored student winners of the Design Presentation Competition and dedicated the department’s newly renovated Distillation Column to BP at a reception in late November at Roger Adams Laboratory.

For their projects, students from ChBE 221: Principles of Chemical Engineering investigated components of a mass balance on an ethanol production plant to maximize profit, while students in ChBE 421: Momentum and Heat Transfer designed an economic pumping and piping system to supply cooling water to the condenser of a distillation column.

Jenny Thakkar, a process engineer, and Lindsay Miller, a shift optimization specialist, both from the BP plant in Whiting, Ind., chose the winners based on an afternoon of group presentations. The winners and their cash awards are as follows:

ChBE 421: Momentum and Heat Transfer

1st Place ($150 each)
Christopher Massie, Karl Siil, Christian Stachura, Justin Thiems

2nd Place ($100 each)
A. Delgado, Ryan McGowan, Nihal Varkey, Qing Yang

3rd Place ($50 each)
Sara Benekohal, Sarah Leung, Camille Simon, Sooyoun Yu

ChBE 221: Principles of Chemical Engineering

1st Place ($150 each)
Erica Peterson, Thomas Parkinson, Patricia Bonaguro, Febrian Hillman

2nd Place ($100 each)
Alexandra Thomas, Yangfan Xu, Rachel Lesorgen, Theodore Papadopoulos

3rd Place ($50 each)
Lee Donelson, Renato Yutuc, Jakub Zajac, Gregory Gosciniak

These design projects are part of a curricular innovation that the department piloted in the spring to integrate design projects into core classes throughout the undergraduate curriculum. The overall approach was inspired by project oriented engineering curricula at small, private technical universities.

This plaque was presented to BP for funding the $180,000 refurbishment of the distillation column in the unit operations laboratory for Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering students. “This program was launched to give students experience with oral presentations, working on a team and practical projects including open-ended design as early as their freshmen year,” said Department Head Paul Kenis. “The design projects are intended to help students develop skills in creative problem solving and communication. As my predecessor Ed Seebauer recently stated, ‘Projects like these give students an opportunity to glimpse the relevance of the other courses they are taking.’”

Lecturers Jerrod Henderson and Troy Vogel coordinated the design projects for the courses, which are taught by Professor Daniel Pack and Assistant Professor Brendan Harley. Professor Ed Seebauer and Lecturer Marina Miletic were instrumental in initiating the program.

The overall approach of integrating the design projects into the curricula was inspired by project-oriented engineering curricula at small, private technical universities such as Worchester Polytechical Institute, Rose-Hulman and Illinois Institute of Technology.

“Implementing such an ambitious program at a larger public school like Illinois took some creativity in light of the over 500 undergraduates we have in our program today,” Kenis said.

Following the student award announcements, the newly refurbished distillation column in the unit operations laboratory was dedicated to BP, who funded its refurbishment with a generous grant of $180,000.  The column is nearly in operating condition now and is “one of the key separation techniques used in industry,” according to Kenis. It will allow students to gain valuable experience with a key industrial process.  BP also contributed financial support for adding the design projects to the curriculum.

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