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Bringing Customer Insight to the Chemical Product Design Process

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This fall, when senior chemical engineering students open their email on the first day of Chemical Product Design class, they will be greeted with a message from the CEO of a fictitious company, Nephrotex.

In the real world of chemical engineering, the customer is a key component of the design process, yet most chemical engineering students graduate with little to no practice engaging with consumer perspectives.  Beginning in Fall 2013, students in the senior Chemical Product Design class of Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering will practice integrating the customer perspective into the product design process using an enhanced version of the virtual internship game, Nephrotex.

Nephrotex, one of a growing number of “epistemic games,” was developed by leading game scientist David Williamson Shaffer (University of Wisconsin-Madison).   The game simulates the real world of chemical product design and the complex network of individuals trying to influence the design of a product.  Swanson School of Engineering professors Cheryl Bodnar and Eric Beckman will use their ACIE grant, “Virtual Internships: Development of Professional Identity within Large Enrollment Programs,” to enhance the game to ensure students are considering and addressing customer concerns throughout the product design process.  Throughout the simulation, students will practice negotiating with multiple subjectivities, personal prejudices, and personalities—skills they will need as they enter the world of professional engineering.

Many chemical engineering students begin receiving job offers from large companies in the second semester of their senior year, often bypassing more entrepreneurial career options.  By developing a greater appreciation for professional practice within the field of product development, Bodnar and Beckman also hope to generate enthusiasm and confidence in students to one day build their own businesses. 

By Carolyn Barber, CIDDE


SEPTEMBER 2013

Contents:

2013 ACIE Edition
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Learning By Doing: Hands on Research using the Research Experience Portal
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Bringing Customer Insight to the Chemical Product Design Process

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Exploring physical chemistry using mobile devices
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Science in a large lecture format for the non-scientist
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Improving Patient Outcomes through Interprofessional Education
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