Richard Zollars
Richard Zollars

Richard Zollars, professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering has been named a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). The award is given in recognition of outstanding contributions to engineering or engineering technology education, according to the ASEE website.

With WSU since 1978, Zollars served as department chair and then interim director of the school for 14 years. He has received several department teaching awards and has been involved in engineering education efforts.

In the area of K–12 teacher development, Zollars led the development of SWEET, or Summer at WSU Engineering Experiences for Teachers. The program, which has subsequently been established at a national level, invites middle and high school teachers to an intensive, six-week course that introduces them to engineering research and encourages development of curricula that they can bring back into their classrooms.

In the university engineering classroom, Zollars helped to develop a software environment called ChemProV (Chemical Process Visualizer). The software presents chemical engineering students with dynamically-generated feedback on their process flow diagrams and equations, guiding them toward correct solutions. Students using the program do a better job of problem-solving than those using traditional learning methods.

He has recently received support from the National Science Foundation’s Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (TUES) program on a project to use ChemProV to facilitate studio-based learning in chemical engineering classes. The idea is to develop a learning environment similar to what one finds in architecture design studios, so that students present solutions to their peers and instructor for critical review and discussion. Faculty at 10 institutions around the U.S. are experimenting with and documenting the software and the studio-based effort in their material/energy balance courses.

Zollars’ research areas include interfacial phenomena, polymer science and engineering, and surface and colloid science. He also serves as advisor for the WSU student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). Zollars and the student group several years ago developed the idea for the society’s national chemical car competition, in which student teams design, build, and race miniature cars that run off of a chemical reaction.

Zollars will be honored at the ASEE annual conference, to be held in San Antonio, Texas, in June.