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An Attempt to Gamify a First Course in Thermodynamics

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Mechanical Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.152.1 - 24.152.20



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Paper Authors


Andrew Trivett P.Eng. University of Waterloo

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Dr. Trivett completed a Doctor of Science in the Department of Ocean Engineering (Now part of the department of Mechanical Engineering) at MIT. He earned a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering at the Technical University of Nova Scotia (now Dalhousie University Faculty of Engineering), and attended a high school formerly in Chester, Nova Scotia. While he does not believe that he was ever the cause of academic institutions closing after he graduated, it did seem to be a trend. Since 2003, however, he has evidently improved the luck of institutions by teaching undergraduate courses in design and mechanical engineering. Dr. Trivett is an Associate Professor at the University of Prince Edward Island, Canada. In 2014, he was appointed director of the Engineering Clinic in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Waterloo. Thankfully, these institutions continue to thrive, and support innovative programs in engineering.

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The first course in thermodynamics has traditionally been a challenge for students in engineeringprograms. The course typically introduces students to many entirely new concepts of continuummechanics, and often relies upon still-new calculus tools in order for the students to understand thetheory. With such a dense topic, most professors deliver this course in a traditional lecture-basedstructure. In our program throughout 7 partner universities, this first course in thermodynamcs has areputation for being the “weed-out” course for students.In the fall of 2013, the author took an established course having 6 or 7 lab experiments, a populartextbook, a well-evolved syllabus, and overturned the motivational structure to create a “new” course.The “thermofluids 1” course became the 7-mission “hunt for energy and power”. The same textbookwas used in the new delivery model as had been used previously; the same laboratory experiments wereundertaken by students, but students had a different approcah to the workload.Throughout the course, students proceeded at their own pace, and completed 7 “missions”, each with 5levels of performance. The first 3 levels were successively more complex analytical problems. The 4thlevel was a lab report based on a moderately challenging lab experiment, and the 5th level was anopportunity for the student to develop a concept based on the content of the earlier lab experiment. Theconcept of “Design” was built into the course in a limited, but content-rich mode through havingstudents each propose, conduct, and report on an improved development or experiment. In the paper,the author will present the results of this attempt at “gamifying” a thermodynamics course, and willillustrate one model for bringing student directed, limited-scope, design projects into a heavy content-based course.

Trivett, A. (2014, June), An Attempt to Gamify a First Course in Thermodynamics Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20043

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