Tom Eppes, professor of electrical and computer engineering, Ivana Milanovic, professor of mechanical engineering, and Kamau Wright, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, in the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture (CETA), presented a paper at the June 2018 Multidisciplinary Conference sponsored by the International Journal of Arts & Sciences (IJA&S) in Paris, France. The conference brings together international academics to present research in the fields of social sciences, humanities, education, and technology.
The paper, ‘Design of an Electro-Osmotic Microfluidic Mixer’ explores the outcome of two different approaches to a student-oriented inquiry-based learning (IBL): (1) funded and executed as an extracurricular activity, and (2) embedded in a course. The technical focus of the work involved a class of microfluidic mixers that use a sinusoidal electric field to accelerate the diffusion process between two liquid species in an electrolytic solution. 2D models were developed using the COMSOL® microfluidics module and included both stationary and time-dependent studies. The velocity flow field was investigated, and the relative molar concentration at the outlet was used to quantify how well the two species were mixed.
In Approach 1, a single student undertook and completed the project in 8 weeks. Working outside of class with mentoring as needed, several designs were evaluated using a design of an experiment framework. A best-performing design became the topic of a presentation to the Undergraduate Research Colloquium. In Approach 2, two sections of a multidisciplinary modeling course with a total of 35 students were given the same assignment. Working alone or in a team of two, the work was completed in 3 weeks and the results were shown in a formal end-of-the-semester oral presentation. The pros and cons of each approach are discussed with recommendations to improve.