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A Survey On The Use Of Printed Vs. Electronic Vapor Tables

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Innovations in Mechanical Engineering Education Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.140.1 - 12.140.11



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Paper Authors


Kenneth Miller Saint Cloud State University

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Dr. Kenneth Miller received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of South Carolina. He is currently an associate professor at St. Cloud State University. Primary areas of research include welding, vehicle and road systems, and instrumentation.

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

A Survey on the Use of Printed vs. Electronic Vapor Tables


One of the key features of thermodynamics books continues to be steam and refrigerant tables normally included as an appendix. Learning to use the steam tables has traditionally been an important component of success in entry level thermodynamics. Numerous alternatives have become available over the years and this study is an assessment of the continuing need for students to learn and use printed steam tables.

Vapor tables are currently available in a web format and as stand alone programs for PCs and handheld devices such as the Palm Pilot. The number of vapor tables available in electronic format forces engineering professors to look at the usefulness of teaching students to use the printed tables. A substantial number of faculty still feel that learning to use the printed tables teaches a useful skill and continue to use it before or instead of electronic tables. A growing number of faculties have opted to use the time savings from using the tables for other aspects of the course.

This paper is a survey of faculty, students, and engineers in related fields on how useful it is to teach students to use printed steam tables. Also included in the paper is a summary of the most popular delivery formats and programs.


The ubiquity of personal computers have in engineering education has brought new tools into the process. These tools simplify calculations that used to be extremely time consuming. Vapor tables are one area where students spend a lot of time and are most anxious to reduce their effort. Should students continue to be taught using tables, should we migrate to using software tools, or should both methods be taught?

Mechanical engineering students generally take their introductory thermodynamics course at some point in their first two years. A lot of new terminology and concepts are introduced in the first half of the course, making it a significant hurdle for students. 1

There is no explicit mention of this issue in the ABET criterion for mechanical engineering programs. Thermodynamics are only mentioned in program criterion 1 on curriculum, “…the ability to work professionally in both thermal and mechanical systems areas including the design and realization of such systems”.2

A more direct impact on the use of tables comes from The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). The vast majority of mechanical engineering programs in the U.S. require or recommend that students take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam before graduation. Examinees must be able to determine vapor properties using the printed tables supplied. Computers and PDAs capable of running software are not allowed in the exam. This is consistent with situation at many schools where students do not have access to a PC during tests.

Miller, K. (2007, June), A Survey On The Use Of Printed Vs. Electronic Vapor Tables Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2953

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