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Friday Profile: Lola Eniola-Adefeso, Winner of 2012 Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize
"You are asked to design an original experiment that would be suitable for a high school teacher to use in demonstrating any mass or heat transfer principle or concept to his/her class. The goal is to use your experiments to attract high school students to chemical engineering."
So begins the group project assignment for Chemical Engineering 342 designed by Assistant Professor Omolola Eniola-Adefeso, winner of the 2012 Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize (TIP). Motivated to improve retention rates of diverse students in STEM fields and inspired by her own experiences with hands-on learning early in her undergraduate engineering career, Dr. Eniola-Adefeso developed an assignment that combined self-directed learning, collaboration, and outreach.
When Dr. Eniola-Adefeso first organized this project in fall of 2008, twenty-nine teams of U-M engineering students presented to 30 tenth-graders at Ypsilanti High School. Challenged by Dr. Eniola-Adefeso to design projects that would clearly demonstrate complex principles to high school students -- and get them excited about engineering along the way -- the student groups executed a wide range of creative experiments. From cooking candy and eggs to cutting ice and purifying water, their demonstrations allowed the students not only to teach particular concepts of heat transfer but also to show their high school audience how fascinating chemical engineering can be.
Dr. Eniola-Adefeso's students attest to the value of the project for both their own learning and the high school students' motivation to pursue study in math and science:
"The ChE 342 project was one of my first experiences of true engineering. Unlike the prior courses that explained the theory, this project brought science to application."
"While the students' positive responses gave my team a feeling of success, we also realized teaching had in fact given us mastery of the topics."
- "My group was able to astonish a group of high school students when we demonstrated that Styrofoam served as a better insulator against a cryogenic solution than did aluminum. . . [T]he high school students were in awe of this basic scientific principle at work. . . I hope we piqued their interest in pursuing advanced studies in STEM fields."
For additional information about the Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize (TIP), click here.