Brandon Dearmond Finley
B CUSP 116
Addresses an important social issue through an interdisciplinary perspective; builds creative and critical skills of writing, analysis, and quantitative reasoning; and explores, through scientific methods, one aspect of the natural world. Offered: W.
The course title is "Chemistry and Cars". We will cover practical chemistry related to cars- metallurgy and plastics, combustion, exhaust and pollution, fluids, friction, batteries, and more. In addition, we will discuss larger issues related to chemistry and transportation such as waste, recycling, mining and production, and social impacts of our car-centered society.
The course relies heavily on applications of chemistry, critical thinking, analysis, and evaluation of information and data. We will focus on academic research and research writing. This includes source topic selection, source evaluation and selection, and organization. We will cover this explicitly and you will practice it by writing a research paper and scientific paper based on experimental work.
There will be a significant reading and writing component to the class. You will also create, interpret, and apply numerical reasoning in the form of tables and graphs. Mathematics will be limited to basic calculations (averages and basic mathematics).
Student learning goals
Understand and explain basic chemical concepts related to cars - viscosity, combustion, friction, polymerization, pH, solubility, etc.
Analyze and critically evaluate information for content, context, and reliability. Using many different pieces of information, create a clear, detailed, logical argument and show how the information is connected.
Understand and explain how chemistry impacts the production, use, and disposal of cars. This includes issues related to mining, production, assembly, pollution, and recycling.
Understand and explain why scientists and social researchers take such an active interest in something that seems as mundane as a car.
Write a complete research paper. Choose an appropriate topic, find and evaluate sources, write an authoritative, organized paper, and defend your conclusions using evidence and reasoning.
General method of instruction
Class time will be split amongst traditional lecture, group activities and discussions, and reading or writing. Lectures are used only to introduce chemical concepts, provide definitions, and learn some fundamental facts. The rest of the course will rely on dialogue, reading, writing, experiment, and discussion.
There are no prerequisite courses for this class, although strong reading and writing skills will help. You will also need to know basic mathematics (averaging, order of operations, etc).
Class assignments and grading
Written communication is very important in this course. Most assignments will require you to critically analyze, evaluate, compare and contrast, explain, or critique something in writing. We will do many types of assignments- 1) weekly reading and question sets, 2) a research paper with peer review and revisions, 3) a scientific paper based experimental results, and 4) in-class discussions and problems.
Grades are based on: 1) quality and thoroughness of your weekly writing assignments, 2) participation for in-class work and discussions, 3) the research paper, 4) the scientific paper, and 5) in class discussions and quizzes. All of these assignments will focus on critical thinking and analysis skills. You will also be graded on your ability to support your arguments with detailed information and logical reasoning. My goal is to help you learn to think and write critically, using applied chemistry as the subject. Things like grammar, spelling, and punctuation are important but only count for a small part of your overall grade. This course focuses less on the mechanics of writing and more on analysis and evaluation of information.