Molecule makers

Chemical engineering doesn’t usually start off being a “hands-on” field of study. Because of Bradley Olsen along with his brand-new program for MIT freshmen, 10.00 (Molecule designers), that’ll alter beginning in Spring 2016.

“Institute-wide, students are articulating a need to gain early, hands-on experience,” claims Olsen, the Paul M. Cook connect Professor of Chemical Engineering (ChemE). “This course does exactly that, exposing students to engineering design at the molecular level, and giving them a sense of what chemical engineers really do.”

Mentioning student studies for which undergraduates have actually expressed a want to make things around feasible inside their time at MIT, plus growing curiosity about studying the profession options afforded by their span of study, Olsen along with his peers in ChemE got together and created a unique, foundational subject for Course 10. Drawing on such MIT establishments as the item design courses provided by the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Introduction to Aerospace and Design (known among students as “Build-a-Blimp”) within the division of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Olsen created a course that varies according to a simple understanding of biochemistry, biology, and physics. Pupils will find out brand-new ChemE ideas and methods while they devise solutions to open-ended dilemmas.

“when you need to learn a foreign-language, you go abroad for a year,” Olsen states. “You have actually trouble speaking with everyone — that is motivating. You want to offer students experiences that show them they must find out these exact things to be able to learn real-life difficulties.” 

When it comes to first-class of Molecule Builders, pupils have their range of three difficulties, each supplying just what Olsen calls a “maker room” inside a different chemical engineering domain. One project calls for building a vehicle for the nationwide competition that requires the development of contained and controllable chemical responses to run a car a specific length. Another project requires pupils to design an organism or enzyme that can produce certain quantities of a desired substance item. Additional tasks under development, including microfluidic make of gel microparticles making use of 3-D printers plus the design of solar power liquid heating units.

Each one of these tasks involves “complicated design experiences where students read about making tradeoffs,” Olsen claims. “They may try one design that is tough and much more high priced, then the different one that’s less expensive but much more practical.” Olsen anticipates that freshman “may hit lumps or do things suboptimally, kludging things together.” That would be just fine, because “students will state, ‘I could have enhanced my amazing design if I’d simply understood thermodynamics or liquid characteristics better’ — and then each goes to study those areas.”

Olsen and Kristala Prather, the Theodore T. Miller connect Professor of Chemical Engineering, and also a staff of teaching assistants, will college 10.00 students not only in standard manufacturing maxims and advanced ChemE methods, but in addition in complete safety practices for managing responses, synthesizing biological components, and manipulating substances at the molecular degree. Discovering the discipline’s safety culture is part for the larger lesson Olsen hopes to have across. “We wish students exposed not just to performing chemical manufacturing design, but to what chemical engineers do in their various vocations and workplaces.”

To that particular end, 10.00 comes with panels with people from industry dealing with their particular work, with faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates that will talk about their particular analysis. “We like to show the beautiful possibilities that you can get in the profession,” Olsen says. “Everything you use that’s ‘a thing’ consists of chemical substances, and lots of chemical engineers are involved in the paths that have us from chemical compounds on final item,” he says.

While Olsen is gratified if Molecule Builders pointed much more MIT students toward chemical manufacturing professions, for the short term he hopes to create excitement about MIT’s ChemE significant. He believes 10.00 provides students what they say they need: a secure area to style and also make things utilizing sophisticated methods and tools, and, claims Olsen, “a option to live-out that ‘mens-et-manus’ MIT goal.”