About Us

Background

Chemistry 124/5 is one of four general chemistry course sequences at Cal Poly. The student clientele in 124/5 comes from the College of Engineering (Computer Science, Mechanical, Materials, Industrial, Environmental & Civil, Electronic) and Agricultural Engineering. More than 1000 students pass through the courses every academic year. Cal Poly is on the quarter system. As an undergraduate teaching institution, lecture and laboratory sections are taught by regular faculty.

Since Fall 1994 we have been revising the content of both the lecture and lab in Chem 124/5. The approach stresses material science and the solid state, the use of computers in laboratory for data acquisition, molecular modeling, tutorials, and simulations, and an increase in the expectations for entrants to the sequence.

Although we based our model on the studio classrooms piloted at Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, it quickly became apparent that ours would be a unique and seminal project - the design of a curriculum and facility suitable for large enrollment general chemistry courses which was pedagogically innovative, technologically current, and adaptable to a variety of instructional modes.

The facility was built in existing space once occupied by the Home Economics department. With the demise of that degree program, the building (38 - Mathematics & Home Economics) was remodeled for studios in math, chemistry, and physics. A separate facility was remodeled for a statistics studio classroom.

We moved the courses into the room for Spring Quarter 1997. Since then the room has been used for 6-7 sections of 124/5 per quarter. In addition classes in chemical literature, pharmacology, protein structure, general chemistry for general education, as well as workshops in chemical education have used the facility. Due to the growth of the College of Engineering this past academic year (2002-2003) we had to offer Chem 125 in traditional lecture/lab mode during Winter Quarter 2003. It looks as if we will have to repeat this offering until our new building is on line as it will have two such studios as well as several other variations on the integrated lecture-lab theme.

The studio schedule then has 6 sections (64 students each) of Chem 124 and 1 section of Chem 125 in Fall Quarter, 6-7 sections of Chem 124 in Winter Quarter (with 2-3 lecture sections and at least 10 laboratory sections of 125 taught in traditional mode), and Spring Quarter with 2 sections of 125 and 4 sections of 125.

The summer quarter has seen the studio used for an accelerated 5-week session of the science majors course and workshops for local science teachers K-12. In June 2000 we sponsored a CSU Summer Teaching Institute in integrated science curriculum in the facility.