An investigation into the relevance of a first year primer course in engineering graphics for chemical engineering students
Kotole, Dieketseng Maria
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In chemical process industry (CPI) projects the responsibilities of chemical engineers can generally be split into two categories, namely, plant and equipment sizing; and piping and instrumentation diagram (P&ID) development. In these projects chemical engineers usually work with other departments such as mechanical and civil engineering, piping engineering, instrumentation engineering, and project engineering. Communication in such projects is done through various mediums. These include communication of the plant layouts as well as equipment and P&ID layouts by means of technical engineering drawings. Given this background it is important that chemical engineers should have adequate knowledge to understand the work being communicated by the other departments through means of technical drawings. This makes it necessary for the chemical engineers to obtain training in this field of knowledge. As the literature suggests, this training will benefit chemical engineers by enhancing their spatial visualization ability – which literature points out to be crucial for all engineers, as well as in being able to transpose from 2-D to 3-D drawings, and vice-versa. Technical engineering drawings used to be offered at university entry level for all engineering disciplines. Currently only 33% of South African universities still offer technical engineering drawings for chemical engineering. This raises the question of whether the lack of training in technical drawings for chemical engineers is not a limiting factor in the industry. As a result, this research aimed to establish whether the removal of this subject would not have a negative impact on the chemical engineering students once they are in the industry. The study employed a mixed-method approach to the investigation. A questionnaire containing both quantitative and qualitative questions, and semi-structured interviews were used as the measuring tools for the study. The sample used for this study comprised chemical engineers with varying years of experience who have worked in different offices as chemical engineers in the industry. The findings of this research revealed that chemical engineers do work with technical drawings. The extent and the frequency with which they use drawings is dependent on the type of office (design, process control, management, etc.) as well as the magnitude of the project in which the chemical engineer is working. For the chemical engineers who had the technical engineering drawing subject in their undergraduate studies, the subject yielded benefits with regard to the fundamental engineering thinking abilities. The findings also indicated, however, that the large part of the content presented for the subject is not relevant for chemical engineers. The study therefore recommends that chemical engineers should acquire the necessary technical engineering drawing skills, preferably at the early stages of their university programme. It is also recommended that the subject content should be customized for chemical engineers to address the typical applications of technical engineering drawings in the chemical engineering field, i.e. to read and interpret, and be able to communicate the information on the drawings.
- Engineering 
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