Reverse engineering offers a model of enquiry-based learning in which students can collaborate to investigate how existing, familiar products work and emulate the innovative steps that are central to product development. The reverse engineering process offers a context in which the requisite content knowledge is immediately useful, as well as teaching the relevant experimental and investigative skills required to design and troubleshoot products in industrial laboratories. In this study, final year undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students worked in teams to discover how familiar consumer, household or food products are engineered. The students drew on their backgrounds in chemical engineering and food science/technology to analyse the fluid properties, the underpinning molecular basis for these properties and how these properties were experienced by the end-user of the product. Students were challenged to develop hypotheses about the microstructures within their chosen product and then test these hypotheses by designing and performing simple experiments using only equipment that was to hand in their kitchens. Selected video- based experimental methods were demonstrated to the students who then adapted the protocols to produce and analyse their own video content. The students presented their experimental methods and communicated their findings to the class in presentations and by producing short videos. The reverse engineering activity was found to be a highly successful major assignment as part of the course on complex fluids, offering flexibility for the diverse interests and backgrounds of the students as well as opportunities to explore the field.

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Last edited: Friday September 10, 2010

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