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A Thermodynamics Design Project that Applies Theory, Explores Renewable Energy Topics, and Considers the Economic and Social Impacts of the Designs

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Thermal Fluid Experiment Related

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count

12

DOI

10.18260/1-2--36624

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/36624

Download Count

26

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Paper Authors

biography

Melissa M. Gibbons University of San Diego

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Melissa Gibbons is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of San Diego. She earned her BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Miami, and her MS and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles. She received an NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship while working in the Biomathematics Department at University of California, Los Angeles. Prior to joining University of San Diego, she worked as a Senior Research Engineer at L3 Technologies.

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Abstract

Thermodynamics courses introduce theoretical concepts that can be applied to real-world problems using impactful project-based learning (PBL). Entrepreneurially minded learning (EML) can augment PBL by instilling an entrepreneurial mindset (EM), categorized by curiosity, making connections, and creating value, in the students. This paper describes a group project created for an introductory thermal sciences course that incorporates PBL and EML. Groups were tasked with designing a natural gas power plant using the Rankine cycle and a renewable energy portfolio, both of which were required to meet University of San Diego’s energy demands. Each group had to recommend and justify one of their energy plans to the university’s Board of Trustees. The project was broken into five tasks, and a technical report was due at the semester’s end. In-class sessions were devoted to the project roll out, guided background research, and power plant design. Some assigned project work was aligned with lecture material (e.g., Rankine cycle) to replace the traditional homework assignment associated with that topic.

The project was designed to apply the first and second laws of thermodynamics and cycle analysis to a realistic open-ended problem, explore renewable energy topics, and to incorporate EML by posing the problem in such a way to create curiosity about the potential solutions, make connections between the technical designs and the broader impact those designs have from economic, environmental, and social points of view, and to motivate the students to create value for the university. A secondary objective was to improve the students’ written communication and information literacy skills. While the project was designed to meet both skillset and mindset objectives, the inclusion and assessment of the EM component was the focus of this study.

Direct assessment of seven specific EM student outcomes was performed on the submitted group work from a section of the class taught in spring 2020. Rubrics with four performance levels for each student outcome were created. A majority of the groups were proficient or exemplary in six of the EM student outcomes assessed, and all of the groups were proficient or exemplary in two. Additionally, the project was qualitatively assessed using student feedback and instructor reflections. Preliminary results indicate the project successfully met the stated PBL and EML goals. Future work will be focused on individualizing the EM assessment process and developing a baseline for comparison to determine the effectiveness of the project at meeting the stated skillset-based course outcomes.

Gibbons, M. M. (2021, July), A Thermodynamics Design Project that Applies Theory, Explores Renewable Energy Topics, and Considers the Economic and Social Impacts of the Designs Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36624

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