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A Simple, Affordable Steady State Fin Heat Transfer Mini Lab/Demo

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Thermodynamics, Fluids, and Heat Transfer II

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.103.1 - 14.103.13



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Paper Authors


Michael Maixner United States Air Force Academy

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Michael Rex Maixner graduated with distinction from the U. S. Naval Academy, and served as a commissioned officer in the USN for 25 years; his first 12 years were spent as a shipboard officer, while his remaining service was spent strictly in engineering assignments. He received his Ocean Engineer and SMME degrees from MIT, and his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He served as an Instructor at the Naval Postgraduate School and as a Professor of Engineering at Maine Maritime Academy; he is currently a member of the Department of Engineering Mechanics at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

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James Baughn UC Davis

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James W. Baughn is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley (B.S.) and of Stanford University (M.S. and PhD) in Mechanical Engineering. He spent eight years in the Aerospace Industry and served as a faculty member at the University of California, Davis from 1973 until his retirement in 2006. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, a recipient of the UCDavis Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award, and the author of numerous publications. He completed an assignment to the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs as the Distinguished Visiting Professor of Aeronautics for the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 academic years.

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

A Simple, Affordable Steady-State Fin Heat Transfer Mini-Lab/Demo

ABSTRACT The engineering education literature is replete with recommendations on how to enhance student understanding of steady-state fin heat transfer. These range from the use of numerical programs which allow the user to change various parameters and observe the changes in other parameters or changes in graphic output, to pure laboratory experiments. The current authors feel, however, that the way for students to gain meaningful insight into the problem is through a lab experience which involves not only data reduction, but also analysis and use of a modified “Socratic method” to challenge students’ preconceived notions. Such a method and the associated device are described in this paper. This method has been employed at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). The device itself is inexpensive and simple to manufacture and operate, and the analysis may be employed as either a “mini-lab” or as a classroom demonstration, since it allows rapid comparison of measurements with analytical predictions. Fabrication details, a recommended data sheet layout, and sample results are provided; additionally, initial student misperceptions are discussed, and how questions posed during the lab (the Socratic Method) aided in resolving them. Student feedback and performance on a graded “mini-lab” were most gratifying.

BACKGROUND AND IMPETUS The perennial problem faced by most instructors is how to ensure that their students truly grasp the material in the time allotted. Recently, classes at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) were reduced to forty 53-minute sessions during each semester. Although the total time during each term was more or less the same as it had been before the change (forty-two 50-minute sessions), the scheduling of topics within the thermal fluids systems courses were nonetheless impacted. Among the measures taken to help ensure topics were covered AND actually understood by students in the reduced number of lessons was the incorporation of short mini-labs and demonstrations. The fin laboratory described herein was one of those mini-labs/demonstrations. What the authors sought was an inexpensive educational experience for the students which challenged their intuition and initial perceptions, was also quick and easy to run, included and required comparison of data with theory, required that they interpret their results, and which was also fun (which the authors believe all learning should be). The authors believe that the mini-lab/demonstration described herein satisfies all these requirements.

PREVIOUS EFFORTS A review of the literature shows that numerous approaches have been employed to help students better understand the phenomenon of steady-state heat transfer from extended surfaces. At one end of the spectrum, some were decidedly experimental in nature, while at the opposite extreme, others were entirely computer-based. These different approaches were undoubtedly driven by institutional, curricular, and/or hardware constraints.

≠ Abu-Mulaweh1, Abu-Mulaweh and Mueller2, and Mueller and Abu-Mulaweh3 devised a “design, build, test” heat transfer experiment for incorporation into a junior-level heat transfer

Maixner, M., & Baughn, J. (2009, June), A Simple, Affordable Steady State Fin Heat Transfer Mini Lab/Demo Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4751

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