Modeling is a powerful technique for engineers to determine the best parameters to use in a design, and in many fields, even at the undergraduate level, modeling has greatly advanced with the use of simulation software. However, many biomedical transport courses continue to be taught in a traditional, lecture-based format without the use of simulation. Since much of the class materials are derived from such profound advances in early-mid decades of the 20th century as well as availability of comprehensive textbooks (such as by Bird, Stewart, and Lightfoot), instructors have often continued to cover “classical” problems and methods in teaching transport phenomena. The teaching format usually consists of thorough analytical analysis and application of mathematics to gain insight into physical phenomena. This format is neither engaging students nor does it reflect how specific, real-world biomedical transport problems are solved. As educators, we need to re-evaluate our traditional teaching of transport to reflect what students will encounter in their careers, instill the use of modeling as a precursor to design, and promote a deeper understanding of transport concepts by allowing students to model, visualize, and solve more complex biomedical problems.
While simulations are effective to determine the best parameters for a design, hands-on preparation and testing of the design moves students further in the design cycle and allows students to compare experimental results with simulation. We envision a change in the philosophy of teaching transport phenomena – as opposed to a skill set gained for application to complex problems; we propose to model and visualize complex multi-phenomena problems as a teaching tool. This approach will not only provide students a sense of magnitude and “feel” for the phenomena but will also encourage exploration of large parameter spaces to augment their experience. Further, we view the course as a critical bridge from early departmental courses to senior design. Comparisons between experiment and simulation will increase student understanding of simulation to guide the design process but also introduce the limitations of simulations. In addition, students will gain more experience in designing experiments, using laboratory equipment, and analyzing and interpreting data.
To better engage our students and further develop their engineering design skills, we redesigned a lecture-based biomedical transport course into a problem-based learning course that combines lecture, simulation, and experimental components. For the pilot offering, approximately sixty, junior-level bioengineering students will be enrolled (spring 2016) and divided into teams of three to four students. Lectures will (1) provide foundational knowledge and motivate the use of transport principles to solve biomedical problems, (2) explain the problem formulation and software implementation, and (3) discuss how transport processes are modeled and tested in a laboratory experiment. Students will be trained on the simulation software before completing three modules each with a simulation and experimental component (dialysis, diffusion in a gel, and microfluidics) with the culmination of the course being a team project. While students will need to learn the simulation software, they will apply laboratory skills developed in earlier coursework. Through this redefined structure, we introduce students to new material, train students on new software, and increase student understanding and application of previously-learned laboratory techniques to further develop engineering team and design skills.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.