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The Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering

We are in the Business of Learning

Bernie Van Wie works with students using the Desktop Learning Module (DLM) developed by then PhD student, now Postdoctoral Research Associate, Paul Golter
Bernie Van Wie works with students using the Desktop Learning Module (DLM) developed by then PhD student, now Postdoctoral Research Associate, Paul Golter

Working to devise ways for engineering students to learn better, Baba Abdul, a PhD student in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical and Bioengineering, relates the basic premise of improving education to that of business—that we are here to serve the customer. “The student is the customer, and we’re in the business of educating,” he says.

Abdul is working with Bernard Van Wie, a professor in the Voiland School, in the area of engineering education. Van Wie’s team recently received a National Science Foundation grant to continue work on the development and use of a desktop learning module (DLM). The DLM, designed by PhD student Paul Golter, is a desktop apparatus with multiple, easily removable cartridges that can be reconfigured to perform experiments. Machinists from the WSU College of Engineering and Architecture Machine Shop were instrumental in helping design and construct the Desktop Learning Module.

Students using DLM device in class
Dissemination efforts took place recently when Prof. Van Wie and WSU PhD student Baba Abdul took the DLMs to Oklahoma University for implementation in a Christmas break Intersession transport course taught by OU’s Prof. Ed O’Rear. Abdul, who joined WSU’s PhD program as a result of Van Wie’s recent Fulbright exchange and NSF OISE supplement for work at Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria, points to a DLM cartridge with a team of students during an active learning exercise.

Van Wie has been working since the late 1990’s to improve engineering education and to close the gap between how students learn and the way that engineering has traditionally been taught. In particular, he led a team of researchers in developing a curriculum based on Cooperative, Hands-on, Active, Problem-based Learning (CHAPL).

Professional educators have known for years about the benefits of using such learning approaches, and for engineering, hands-on learning is particularly important, says Van Wie. The typical student interested in engineering already tends to be better at learning while doing and at absorbing visual rather than verbal information. While non-lecture techniques have been commonly accepted and used at the elementary school level, they have been slow to be accepted in college, especially in engineering and the hard sciences.

Abdul, who grew up and attended college in Nigeria, remembers suffering through engineering classes that were taught in a traditional format. Professors would come into the classroom, tell students that none of them would receive an A, and then begin lecturing. “They didn’t help us to build our knowledge,” says Abdul.

Many students decided they couldn’t do engineering, and out of his class of 50 students at one of Nigeria’s top universities, only 20 graduated.

Out of the effort to develop an active curriculum, Van Wie uses the DLM for hands-on activities. In classes with the DLM, students learn to match the math they are learning with what is actually happening physically. So, for instance, the DLM contains a heat exchanger. Students conduct experiments to understand the concept of heat transfer between fluids. Understanding the concept of cross-flow and parallel flow can be confusing, says Abdul, but with the DLM, the students can see the difference between the two concepts and then learn to understand the equations “rather than just ‘plugging and chugging,’ ” he says.

The researchers have tested students’ understanding of concepts as they participate in hands-on and project-based learning. From evaluations, the researchers have found students prefer the hands-on activities and the projects that depend on understanding built during those activities.

“They feel that they’re doing real engineering,” says Abdul, “and the group work that they do simulates what happens in an engineering firm.”

The researchers found that working on team-based projects allowed students to learn valuable evaluation skills. The students actually rated themselves more harshly than professors and industry advisors did.

“The learning that happens is a complex learning experience that is focused and authentic,” says Abdul.

In the research, Van Wie’s team has shown that students using DLMs have shown statistically significant improvements in critical thinking skills and understanding of engineering concepts.

With the new grant, the researchers will be expanding use of the DLMs from its initial testing in a chemical engineering transport phenomena class into a variety of engineering classrooms, including civil, mechanical, bio- and even electrical engineering. In chemical engineering, the researchers will be trying out the DLM in thermodynamics and in a senior unit operations laboratory.

The DLM is being further used and tested in classes at five different institutions, ranging from a two-year college, to private four-year universities and a research university. The researchers also hope to begin working with industry partners to produce a commercial product. Recently, over the 2010 Christmas break the researchers successfully implemented the DLMs within a University of Oklahoma intersession class with Prof. Ed O’Rear, a collaborator from Oklahoma’s Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department.

Lake Roosevelt High School wins 2010 Imagine Tomorrow Competition

Student team from Lake Roosevelt High School (Mr. Rise, advisor)
Student team from Lake Roosevelt High School (Mr. Rise, advisor)

Imagine Tomorrow at WSU is an annual high school competition that challenges students to seek new ways to support the transition to alternate energy sources. The student team from Lake Roosevelt High School (Mr. Rise was their advisor) entered the 2010 Imagine Tomorrow event last summer, and their project won first place for the category of behavior challenge as well as advisors’ favorite.

For this project, the students aimed to create a solar energy education curriculum for elementary school children in Malawi Africa. The project addresses the question of how developing countries can use sustainable energy education to improve the future for their children. To achieve this goal the Lake Roosevelt group created a partnership with the Masanjala Educational Foundation-Malawi. Curriculum materials they produced were sent to the middle school science teacher in Chiradzulu, Malawi. The project includes a solar water pasteurization component with supporting tools and materials. Water in Malawi is usually untreated, is of poor quality, affects children’s health and ultimately hinders Malawi’s ability to improve living conditions. The curriculum uses reclaimed materials to construct a model of a solar cooker which captures sun energy. Using solar energy to bring water to a pasteurization temperature has been shown to improve water quality and conserves Malawi’s limited wood resources.

2010 Platinum Laureate: Voiland Contribution Furthers Engineering Research and Education

The largest one-time commitment by an individual donor in the University’s history is paving the way for WSU to have one of the nation’s leading chemical engineering programs focused on renewable energy innovations. The naming of the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering honors the Voilands’ revolutionary $17.5 million commitment to WSU. This remarkable gift will enable WSU to build on existing strengths and attract exceptional students and faculty to conduct research in catalytic systems for renewable fuels and sustainable energy. This historic gift will ensure that future generations of WSU students will have access to a truly transformative chemical engineering education.

Video Transcript

Gene Voiland: “We believe in giving back and I was very successful in my career but I was very successful really because of some people at WSU and the education I got there.”

Text: Gene & Linda Voiland, 2010 Platinum Laureate, Washington State University Foundation

Linda Voiland: “There was a specific need that came out of the school, out of the school, out of the college.”

James Petersen (Chemical Engineering professor and Director of the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering): “Gene and Linda have made a series of gifts to the school, the latest gift has had a huge impact on the school. It has allowed us to hire a world-class faculty member.”

Gene Voiland: “We have basically hired a number of professors and world-class people to do world-class research and teaching.”

James Petersen: “As a result, the US News rankings of the school have risen 18 points in the last two years. The students who graduate from an institution with a high reputation have better potential for jobs and if the department has a high reputation we can do a better job of attracting outstanding students. Not only have the student numbers gone up, the student quality has gone up and the fraction of women has increased. Right now, 30 percent of the juniors and seniors in chemical engineering are women. This is about twice the national average.”

Aime Feero (Senior, Chemical Engineering): “You could do anything with chemical engineering. You don’t have to sit in the lab and be next to the distillation column with your hard hat and all that sort of stuff, but you can go into entrepreneurship or design. There are so many options and I think that is what is appealing to so many women.”

Linda Voiland: “If we turn out the students that we think that we can to do the things that we think they can do, they will be better off for it, the rest of the world will be better off for it.”

Gene Voiland: “I think the big thing is is that whenever someone works with world-class people and are trained by them and learn how they do their business, they’re going to accomplish something. Who knows where they might be a difference, but I know they will.”

Stephen Davidson (PhD candidate, Chemical Engineering): “My project is cobalt catalyzed ethanol steam reform. It’s effectively a process that converts ethanol into hydrogen. The current process takes natural gas and turns it into hydrogen. The obvious benefit here is we can always make more ethanol and there are so many better things you can use natural gas for than for just making hydrogen.”

Gene Voiland: “What I really like is I like the quality of the people. It’s more than the institution. It’s the people. That’s who talks to you is the professor or the researcher.”

Linda Voiland: “I think the thing that strikes me is they’re just real people. They’re very approachable and if I’d had a few people like that when I was going to school, it really would have made an impact.”

Gene Voiland: “I think that’s a lot of what WSU is always about. There is a passion in the school. Sometimes, you know, with really big universities you’re part of something big but you don’t feel like it and this has a very friendly, warm feeling and people care.”

James Petersen: “The undergraduate students that we’re educating are being educated by outstanding scholars interacting with world leaders. All of this I directly attribute to the gift and the vision that Gene and Linda have.”

Aime Feero: “Thank you for supporting the school and making an effort to continue to support the students as well. Not only the money which is obviously a great gift too but the continual support that it will be, I would say thank you for that.”

Gene Voiland: “The way I view it is that we’re making an investment in the future.”

Linda Voiland: “It’s an investment in our kids. It’s an investment in the long-term standing of the school. I think that it will attract world-class students.”

Gene Voiland: “We really believe in WSU.”

Text: Gene & Linda Voiland, 2010 Platinum Laureate, Washington State University Foundation

Lonnie Wilson’s Book, How to Implement Lean Manufacturing, a Bestseller

Book: How to Implement Lean Manufacturing, by Lonnie Wilson

We are proud of Voiland School alumnus, Lonnie Wilson, whose book was recently listed as the best seller in the “Industrial, Manufacturing & Operational Systems: Quality Control” category at Amazon. How to Implement Lean Manufacturing is published by McGraw-Hill and is a practical, hands-on guide to lean manufacturing. Readers have praised Lonnie for his explanations that take the mystery out of the lean manufacturing process.

McGraw-Hill says: “Wilson’s real-world resource offers proven solutions for implementing lean manufacturing in an enterprise environment, covering the engineering and production aspects as well as the business culture concerns. Filled with detailed examples, the book focuses on the rapid application of lean principles so that large, early financial gains can be made.

“Lonnie Wilson graduated from WSU’s Voiland School in 1969 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. He has been teaching and implementing Lean techniques for more than 39 years. His experience spans 20 years with an international oil company where he held a number of management positions. In 1990 he founded Quality Consultants which teaches and applies Lean techniques to small entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 firms, principally in the United States, Mexico, and Canada.”

Yong Wang Named Fellow of American Chemical Society

Yong Wang
Yong Wang

Yong Wang, Voiland Distinguished Professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, and Associate Director of the Institute for Interfacial Catalysis at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, has been named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Fellows are recognized for their exceptional accomplishments in chemical science and the profession, as well as their service to the ACS. Wang, an internationally known researcher in the area of energy and renewable energy, joined WSU in 2009. He has a joint appointment with the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and WSU. A portion of Dr. Wang’s appointment also is funded by WSU’s Agricultural Research Center, the state’s agricultural experiment station.

He is a leading researcher in the area of catalysis and biorenewable energy, where his work has had a significant impact on improving energy efficiency, particularly in the chemical and fuels industries.

Wang’s work spans from fundamental to applied research in clean energy conversion, including fundamental studies of structure and functional relationships of transition metal oxide and bimetallic catalysts, development of novel catalytic materials, and innovative work in reaction engineering to improve the conversion of biomass and hydrocarbons to fuels and chemicals. He also developed novel and durable materials for fuel cell applications.

Wang is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The Chinese Institute of Engineers also named him the 2006 Asian American Engineer of the Year. He is the recipient of three prestigious R&D 100 awards (1997, 1999 and 2008), which annually recognize the 100 most significant and innovative, new technologies that have been introduced in the marketplace. He is recipient of the Presidential Green Chemistry Award in 1999 and was twice named Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) Inventor of the Year, in 2004 and 2006. In 2005 he received the PNNL Laboratory Director’s Award for Exceptional Scientific Achievement. Wang received his M.S. and PhD degrees in chemical engineering from Washington State University in 1992 and 1993.

Wang has co-authored more than 130 peer-reviewed publications, has given more than 60 invited presentations over the past five years, is an inventor or co-inventor on more than 100 issued patents and has edited six books and topic journal issues on novel materials and reaction engineering for fossil and biomass conversions.

ACS is the world’s largest chemical science professional society, with more than 161,000 members. The group publishes 38 professional journals.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is a Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory where interdisciplinary teams advance science and technology and deliver solutions to America’s most intractable problems in energy, the environment and national security. PNNL employs 4,700 staff, has an annual budget of nearly $1.1 billion, and has been managed by Ohio-based Battelle since the lab’s inception in 1965. Follow PNNL on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Golden Graduates Return for Reunion

Golden Graduates from the WSU Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering
(l to r) James Petersen, Susannah Graedel, Tom Graedel, Jim Huff, Larry Petershagen, Dawn Petershagen, and Chuck Mackdanz in the Unit Ops Lab
(photo taken April 28, 2010, photo courtesy of Tom and Susannah Graedel)

Last month Golden and Diamond Graduates from the classes of 1950 and 1960 returned to Washington State University in Pullman, Washington as guests of the Alumni Association. The reunion spanned April 28–29, 2010 and included a variety of events all over campus. Alumni had an opportunity to tour WSU; meet current students, faculty, and staff; get a glimpse into some of the research being done here on campus; and reconnect with old friends.

The College of Engineering and Architecture (CEA) tour began with student presentations. Afterwards, alumni were welcomed by Dean Candis Claiborn and enjoyed lunch together with CEA students, faculty and staff. The rest of their time in the college was spent touring including a tour of the Unit Ops lab. As undergraduates, the alumni in the photo above spent many hours working together in the old Unit Ops lab.

Tom Graedel who was presented with the Alumni Achievement Award during the reunion stated, “It was a great pleasure for me to see my classmates of long ago, all of whom have had interesting and successful careers. Each of us obviously benefited from our years at WSU, and the enthusiasm and commitment of today’s students and faculty make it obvious that those benefits continue.”

“My wife Susannah joins me in thanking you for a truly memorable visit to the land of the cougars!”

“Finally, here is a picture from the great tour of the Unit Ops lab (see photo above). For several of us, the highlight was our reunion with the distillation tower. Apparently old soldiers and old equipment never die.”

Thank you to everyone who attended and to everyone who helped organize this memorable week at the WSU campus.

David Ensor Honored With Voiland School Distinguished Alumnus Award

David Ensor
David Ensor received the Violand School Distinguished Alumnus Award
on May 9, 2010

David Ensor went green before it was cool. One could say he was on the environmental bandwagon early when no one could have foreseen it would be a major trend over the next four decades.

“I made the decision to go into environmental engineering before the first Earth Day; this was before the Environmental Protection Agency,” Ensor said. “People thought I was absolutely nuts.”

Ensor was recently honored with the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering Distinguished Alumnus Award.

After graduating with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from WSU in 1963, he got his master’s and Ph.D. at the University of Washington. It was while in graduate school that Ensor decided to use his chemical engineering training in the environmental field.

“I wanted to do something a little more relevant to our future,” he said. “One reason I made this decision was it seemed to me that the problems in the environment needed to be solved.”

He also met his wife, Sally, who was a student in the Department of Library Science at the University of Washington. His career choice made sense to her because “Basically, he was either outdoors hiking and mountain climbing or studying and working in the lab,” she said.

Ensor went on to become an expert in aerosol and air pollution science. In recent years, he has been applying his aerosol expertise to nanotechnology research and international standards development as a United States delegate to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

His work has ranged from some of the first air quality projects in Southern California to recent research into how indoor air filters work. He worked for Meteorology Research Inc of Altadena, CA and is currently employed by RTI International in North Carolina. During the last 38 years, he has managed departments and centers performing projects for EPA, Department of Energy, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Electrical Power Research Institute, and private corporations.

Currently as a RTI Senior Fellow, Ensor is editing a book about the history of aerosol science in addition to his research responsibilities. He has several patents, almost 200 publications, recognition as one of the Founding Editors-in-Chief of Aerosol Science and Technology, and several prestigious awards, including the Hammer Award from the White House during the Clinton Administration and the Meritorious Service Award from the American National Standards Institute.

Ensor credits a variety of things for his success, including a high school shop class that taught him about designing projects and finishing them, the importance of a strong work ethic, and how to draft technical plans.

“It’s not about which classes you take, it’s what you get out of them and how you apply them,” he said.

Although he moved on, he also always remembers the impact of WSU.

“I came from a small high school (Reardan Washington), went to WSU, and, in four years, I was employable,” he said. “Almost everyone from WSU can say that.”

In particular, he credits former CEA faculty member and the first Chemical Engineering Department Chair, George Austin, with inspiring him to move into environmental research.

“Austin was quite an individual. He used to tell stories illustrating the importance of identifying and solving the right problems. That’s one reason I decided to go into the environmental field,” Ensor said. “Without inspiration of the contrarian world view George Austin had, I probably wouldn’t have made that decision.”

He was surprised and honored to receive the award. It means a lot to him to be recognized, he says, but his selection is “still a mystery.”

“I don’t feel like I have done anything significant at this point. It’s a lot of little things,” Ensor said. “I haven’t saved the environment yet but we’re working on it.”