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Problem Based Delivery (PBD)

Students collaborating on project work.

The PBD project dates back to 1999-04 when delivery of Problem Based Learning (PBL) via an internet-based learning platform was unusual and novel. Furthermore, the PBL was divided into modules of about 4 weeks each that could be woven into a more traditional lecture program.

Some teaching programs used just one PBL module, combined with an in-semester assessment. Traditional lectures and end-of-semester examination were used in the other 9 or so weeks of the semester. A few programs used more than one PBL module. The PBD project was designed to be flexible in implementation.


The program was funded by a Large Teaching And Learning grant at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). It gained a superior rating in all regards upon completion.  Examples of STEM content modules delivered under this program can be found in the articles that follow. More details for the PBD teaching and learning project can be found from the following link (or from the menu above (under the “Articles” item).

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Apollo 13 Module

Astronaut John L. Swigert, Jr., Apollo 13 Command Module Pilot, holds the jerry-rigged arrangement which the Apollo 13 astronauts built to purge carbon dioxide from the Lunar Module.

This content module is designed to assist students in learning in foundational chemistry concepts, including balancing chemical equations, the mole concept, stoichiometry, and the gas laws.

This problem scenario is based on historical events that were depicted in the Ron Howard movie Apollo 13 by Universal City Studios (1995). In the accident-fated Apollo 13 mission, 2 of the 3 fuel cells were seriously damaged when the oxygen tank in the service module (SM) exploded early in the mission. The fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electrical power for the command module (CM) and supply the crew with drinking water,

Because the CM had no power, the astronauts were faced with using the lunar module (LM) as a “life raft” until they could return to earth. Trouble was that the LM was never designed for 3 astronauts for that length of time. In order to survive, the astronauts, and their ground-based support crew were faced with the problem of building a makeshift filter for removing life-threateningly high levels CO2 from the crippled spacecraft’s cabin atmosphere.

Students during the time period in the, now defunct, PCB101 teaching unit at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), were required to evaluate, amongst other things, how many scrubber cartridges would be needed with the makeshift filter to give the astronauts sufficient breathable oxygen to return to earth, with a safety margin.

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The Apollo 13 Module was in active use at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) over the period 1999 – 2008 n the then teaching unit: PCB 101 Physical Science. That unit was actively deployed over two semesters per year and two campuses during that period. The campuses were at Garden’s Point (city) and at the Carseldine campus (now closed), in an outer suburb of Brisbane.  

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