Creating successful Bachelor thesis projects by interdisciplinary approach
Paper in proceedings, 2016
Since 2013 we have supervised a series of multidisciplinary bachelor thesis project with the theme “local small-scale production of bio-methane to the Chalmers Ecomarathon challenge”.
The concept is based on a biomass to biofuel process similar to the one applied in the GoBiGas-project in Gothenburg. The long-term vision is a miniature process that can produce enough methane from biomass to run the Chalmers Ecomarathon car. A simplification in the projects is that the students work with one process step at a time, but else they do everything that is required;
• design and construction of a reactor,
• catalyst synthesis,
• thermodynamic modelling,
• experimental testing and
As we have small ambitions on the outcome in terms of scientific usability of the results for our own research, the students and their ability to tackle the problem can steer the process. They formulate the questions, apply their basic knowledge from their first years at Chalmers on the task by consolidating theory with experiment, evaluate the results and reflect on what to improve. We as teachers/supervisors only set the boundaries and function as sparring partners.
As has been pointed out in the literature (Biggs & Tang, 2007) the important thing is “what the student does”. Indeed, we have seen that the students learn a lot from these projects and the reasons include actively participation and a clear connection to a sustainable society. Another important success factor is the interdisciplinary approach that make the students be aware of other research field and serves as an extra motivator. These aspects have also been verified form student evaluation. Moreover, we would like to argue that in order to meet the challenges in engineering education for sustainable development, where “competencies” such as Systems Thinking Competence is important (Lönngren & Svanström, 2015), these kind of interdisciplinary learning activities is filing a gap in the current curriculum at Chalmers.
The objective of this presentation is to present this concept of cross-disciplinary BSc thesis and hopefully to inspire other teachers to try similar approaches. Aspects on research depth and interdisciplinary collaboration will be presented and discussed
BSc thesis project