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A Project Centered Approach To Teaching Of Thermal Fluid Systems Analysis And Design

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Trends in Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.105.1 - 8.105.12



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Paper Authors

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Theresa Jones

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Jerold Jones

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Gary Vliet

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Philip Schmidt

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1566

A Project-Centered Approach to Teaching of Thermal-Fluid Systems Analysis and Design

Philip S. Schmidt, Jerold W. Jones, Gary C. Vliet, and Theresa L. Jones Department of Mechanical Engineering University of Texas at Austin Abstract

In the fall of 1998, the Thermal-Fluid Systems faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin introduced a new junior-level course, ME343 Thermal-Fluid Systems, which replaced a long-standing second course in thermodynamics. This course caps a three course sequence in fundamentals of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer. It is intended to deepen students’ understanding of material covered in the three fundamentals courses, to extend their knowledge base in selected areas, and to tie the fundamental areas together in the context of engineering systems. We also wish to enhance students’ ability to apply computer tools, to research engineering literature, to self-teach, and to communicate.

It was decided that the most effective way to accomplish these goals was to center the course around an in-depth study of one or two specific systems each semester. Students, working in teams of 3 or 4, are required to analyze the underlying engineering issues that govern the design and performance of the system, develop computer models, perform parametric studies, and prepare a comprehensive report summarizing their analysis and conclusions. “Just-in-time” theory is presented in class to support these activities as they evolve. Examples of systems used to date include commercial aircraft and their turbofan engines, Diesel and gas turbine cogeneration systems, domestic refrigerators, building HVAC systems and heating systems for semiconductor processing equipment.

This paper describes our approach to selecting, organizing and implementing projects, presents examples of projects used in the course, and describes methods for assessing the effectiveness of the project-centered approach in courses of this type.


Every mechanical engineering program includes a set of core courses in the thermal-fluid sciences (TFS): thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer. These fundamental topics are at the heart of all energy conversion systems, and courses focusing on each area have been an important part of the mechanical engineering curriculum since the inception of the field.

The contents of these courses are almost universally accepted throughout the world, and excellent textbooks are available, all of which follow nearly identical outlines. The teaching approach is traditional: lectures and problem sets, in some cases supplemented with simple structured lab experiences.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exhibition Copyright 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Jones, T., & Jones, J., & Vliet, G., & Schmidt, P. (2003, June), A Project Centered Approach To Teaching Of Thermal Fluid Systems Analysis And Design Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12376

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