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Ideas Needed for Paper Science and Engineering Senior Design Projects

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Professor Med Byrd, director of undergraduate programs and senior design instructor, Paper Science and Engineering (PSE) at North Carolina State University (NCSU), Raleigh, N.C., USA, is seeking ideas for senior design projects. One of the most important parts of the PSE curriculum at NCSU, he emphasizes, is the capstone senior design course.

"It is critical that we assess the overall skills of our graduates, and send them out into the world, with a flourish. This means selecting a senior design topic that is realistic...challenging...and that makes them think critically. Finding eight to ten such topics each year is not as easy as you'd think. That is why I am soliciting ideas from our industry partners, who no doubt encounter things in their daily work that make them think ‘now that's an interesting idea...I wonder how it would play out in the mill,'" Professor Byrd says.

Two different kinds of projects are needed:

  1. "Realistic" projects amenable to process simulation (the biggest need). Traditionally, PSE senior design projects are based on a significant change to an existing process. The students have to model the base and alternate processes (using GEMS) and then develop an assessment of the technical and economic feasibility of the proposed change. A classic example would be the installation of oxygen delignification.

    "Last year, we improved the senior design experience and helped level the playing field by providing the students with a shell of an imaginary mill (Carolina Pulp & Paper Inc.) and then proposing a series of projects to enhance the mill's profitability, both by cost reduction and new products," Professor Byrd explains. The project titles included: (a) Conversion from Uncoated Free Sheet to Hardwood Dissolving Pulp Production, (b) Conversion from Uncoated Free Sheet to Softwood Fluff Pulp Production, (c) Bleach Sequence Modification and Washer Upgrade, (d) Oxygen Stage Washer Upgrade, and (e) Brownstock Washing Upgrade.

    "So, we are asking PSE faculty, alumni, friends, and supporters in the industry, collectively, for any good ideas about specific process modifications and capital additions that could be evaluated," Professor Byrd emphasizes.

  2. Pie in the Sky" Projects. These projects, more conceptual and futuristic in nature, are assigned to dual-degree students who are taking their Chemical Engineering Design course (they only have to take Design I) in their final semester.

    "They need a project to do a literature survey and front-end analysis on, but they will not be taking it to an actual modeling and economic analysis in a successive semester. A good example from the past: ‘Development of Hemicellulose-Based Absorbents,'" Professor Byrd concludes.

Senior design project ideas can be emailed directly to Professor Byrd at NCSU.


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