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June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
Most people have a somewhat intuitive knowledge regarding the interaction and transfer of energy. Despite this, many students struggle with Thermodynamics in classroom settings. The equations and mathematics can be overwhelming and frustrating, in part because it is often hard to visualize thermodynamic interactions. This is especially true for the concept of entropy, which many consider to be one of the toughest thermodynamic principles to comprehend. Furthermore, the equations and mathematics are sometimes disconnected from daily, real-life experiences.
Today’s students have a plethora of distractions available to them. If students feel bored or frustrated with the material, often times they will lose focus and browse the internet looking for more interesting topics. They learn differently, more intuitively, experiencing short attention spans. Therefore, the material and presentation methods should be clear, intuitive and engaging.
This primary focus of this paper is to help students learn and instructors explain the fundamental concept of thermodynamic entropy by utilizing intuitive and example-based approaches. This paper seeks to cut through the volumes worth of material written on the subject in order to boil entropy down into something that is clear and easy to understand. To accomplish this, this paper starts with (1) intuitive examples of spontaneous processes, such as the dilution of tea bags in water, followed by (2) analogies that aid in understanding the significance of entropy as a “ratio,” for example, the effect of an LED at night versus during the day on the overall visibility, (3) explanations of the difference between the macro state and micro state view of entropy, such as watching a movie forward or backwards (for macro explanation) and looking at the motion of molecules (for micro explanation), (4) brain teasers, such as the effect of a working refrigerator in an isolated room, (5) an explanation of the role of statistical mechanics in entropy, and (6) a brief overview of various other notions related to entropy. We relate these examples to the idea of the Carnot cycle and to other quantitative formulas. The point of this approach is to provide students with examples that translate textbook explanations to real life and help in comprehension of the material. We believe that when using these intuitive examples students tend to understand the concept of entropy more clearly.
It should be noted that this paper is a work in progress. In addition, this method of teaching is meant to be supplemental in nature and not to replace existing textbooks or other teaching and learning methodologies. The work in this paper has not yet been shared in a classroom setting. However, we intend to assess effectiveness of this approach in the near future. A similar visual, intuitive, and engaging approach has been conducted and assessed in classroom settings for the topics of Statics (explaining center of gravity), Calculus (explaining integration and explaining derivation by chain, product, and quotient rules), Differential Equations, Control Systems, Digital Signal Processing, Newton’s Laws of Motion, and Computer Algorithms. Based on our previous work, there is reason to believe in the effectiveness of this approach in the field of Thermodynamics as well.
Raviv, D., & Barb, D. R. (2020, June), A Visual and Intuitive Approach to Teaching and Learning the Concept of Thermodynamic Entropy Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34083
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