Professor Matt Cooper and his colleagues selected to receive the David Himmelblau Award

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Professor Matt Cooper
Professor Matt Cooper

Professor Matt Cooper and his colleagues Drs. Daniel Anastasio of the Rose Hulman Institute of Technology, Cheryl Bodnar of Rowan University and Daniel Burkey at the University of Connecticut have been selected to receive the AIChE Computing & Systems Technology (CAST) Division’s David Himmelblau Award for Innovations in Computer-Based Chemical Engineering Education. The Award recognizes an individual or group “making new and novel contributions to computer aids for chemical engineering education.”

In this instance, the team’s award is a recognition of the importance and value of a digital learning tool they created, “Contents Under Pressure,” or CUP. CUP is a virtual game that addresses human decision making in an engineering environment.

The game, which Matt uses in CHE 450 Senior Design, puts students in the role of a senior engineer at a petrochemical facility where they must make decisions on a wide range of realistic topics presented to them by their virtual work colleagues. The students are challenged to keep each of four metrics (time, personal reputation, plant productivity, and process safety) within specifications in order to avoid plant and personnel failures and achieve a high score.

This virtual approach encourages more authentic interactions with process safety decisions than students typically experience during in-class discussions or tests, allowing additional moral development and understanding.

This is important because many process-safety incidents in modern industry are caused not by a lack of knowledge about best practices but instead by human factors – for instance, an engineering team skipping a time-consuming HAZOP (Hazard and Operability) analysis when bringing a previously inactive unit online. These human factors are difficult to teach in a classroom because real-world incentives and disincentives such as time, money, and personal relationships are not present when teaching “textbook” process safety.

Professor Cooper has received a number of teaching and engineering education related awards including NC State’s 2014 Outstanding Teacher Award and the 2019 Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor Award. In 2016, he received the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) ChE Division Raymond W. Fahien Award, which is given annually to an educator “who has shown evidence of vision and contribution to chemical engineering education.”

In 2021 Matt received the ASEE Southeastern Section Outstanding Mid-Career Teaching Award, which recognizes a faculty member “who has demonstrated exceptional contributions to engineering or engineering technology education through outstanding classroom performance” and the William H. Corcoran Award, presented by the Chemical Engineering Division of ASEE for best paper in the journal Chemical Engineering Education.

Congratulations and Thank You to Matt for your demonstrated commitment to excellence in chemical engineering education!