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Collaborative Research: Experiential Process Safety Training for Chemical Engineers: 1711376

Principal Investigator: Cheryl Bodnar
CoPrincipal Investigator(s):
Organization: Rowan University

Process safety is regarded as a critical part of chemical engineering education. However, teaching process safety only in a classroom setting makes it difficult for students to grasp contextual factors that impact decisions they may make in a real-world scenario. Real life chemical processing environments are difficult to achieve in the classroom and potentially dangerous in an actual facility. Computer-based simulations are beneficial tools for teaching difficult and abstract content due to their ability to immerse the learner within the environment, provide goals, support their learning experience, and provide immediate feedback that allows learning lessons from failure. The proposed approach uses a digital environment that allows students to role-play as chemical plant employees. In this learning environment, students will be given the opportunity to experience first-hand the safety challenges of working in an industrial environment and the difficult decision-making scenarios that often arise. The virtual environment offers conditions that are safe, providing students with real-world experiences without the disastrous consequences of wrong decisions that could occur in real life.

Working with a professional game design company, the chemical process safety simulations will be implemented in three chemical engineering programs. Following initial consultations, a design document will be produced that specifies details of the simulation’s rules and interactions, describing the player’s experience and how the player’s actions correlate to learning activities. Three appropriate research questions will be investigated regarding student motivation to learn about process safety, changes in ability to make correct safety decisions and cultural differences in safety decision making. Quantitative methods will be applied to determine how the process safety simulation influenced students, in addition, thematic analysis of student reflections on their responses to the process safety decision making prompts within the process safety instrument will be undertaken to further understand the approach students took when examining the scenarios provided.

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