Friday, Jan. 14, 2011
WATER BOTTLE COMPETITION WHETS ENTHUSIASM FOR LEARNING IN CHEMICAL ENGINEERING CLASS
MANHATTAN -- Playing with water is encouraged in Keith Hohn's introductory-level chemical engineering class at Kansas State University -- all to promote learning.
Hohn, professor of chemical engineering, noticed that new chemical engineering students, typically freshmen or transfer students, are immersed in a variety of science and mathematics courses that lack an applied component -- which he says is central to chemical engineering. So he came up with a hands-on activity for his fall Current Topics in Chemical Engineering course: a project on using pressure to shoot water out of a plastic bottle.
It had one notable limitation. "Students are told that they can only use the force of gravity to power their water guns," Hohn said.
The six-week project required students to submit a written report with a design description and analysis and to make a poster board presentation.
The winning design propelled the required 1.5 liters of water 37 and 1/4 feet. The design featured a wooden frame and tracks. A piece of rope was used to hold the 22 pounds of weight that would help release the pressure. When the rope was released, the weight compressed the bottle evenly and shot the water out.
Designers of the winning project, all chemical engineering majors, include: Mary Bettina Moncayo, Lenexa; Jessica Martin, Meriden; and Noor Al-Shamlan and Abdullah Al Hunaiyyan, both from Kuwait.
Hohn said he hopes the project makes students excited about chemical engineering.
"I hope it encourages them to continue in the major and become chemical engineers," he said. "I hope it also makes them realize the challenges of designing something, from getting the idea, to making a drawing, to building it. That's an important process."