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Assessing A New Thermal/Fluids Systems Curriculum Using Fe Results

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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

12.260.1 - 12.260.9



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Paper Authors


Orval Powell U.S. Air Force Academy

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Orval A. "Rusty" Powell graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Colorado State University and as a Distinguished Graduate from Air Force ROTC. He received his M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering as a Distinguished Graduate from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He is on active duty and has served as an Acquisitions Officer with engineering assignments in research and development, operations support and as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Mechanics at the US Air Force Academy. He is currently a doctoral student in Engineering Systems, Mechanical Specialty at the Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado.

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Michael Maixner U.S. Air Force Academy

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

Assessing a New Thermal/Fluids Systems Curriculum Using FE Results Abstract

As of the 2003-2004 academic year, the Department of Engineering Mechanics (DFEM) at the United States Air Force Academy assumed oversight of thermal/fluids systems courses required for its majors; these courses were previously managed by the Department of Aeronautical Engineering. As part of this shift, DFEM opted to transition to an integrated approach of thermodynamics, heat transfer and fluid mechanics, rather than teaching these topics individually. The new curriculum consists of 4 courses: the first 2 are required for Engineering Mechanics majors while Mechanical Engineering majors are required to take the first three courses, with the fourth course as an elective. While, this transition has been well received by students and faculty alike, however, DFEM sought a method to determine the efficacy of this transition; the Fundamentals of Engineering exam was a logical choice. Based on the results from three exams, preliminary results show that the transition did not detrimentally affect DFEM students’ overall performance as they continued to pass the exam at or above the national average in each of DFEM’s majors. However, upon inspection of individual subjects, there are a few areas in need of improvement. For example, DFEM majors have tended to score below the national average in thermodynamics on the morning portion of the exam. DFEM’s thermal/fluids faculty has considered several items for improvement such as including more thermodynamic lectures in the required courses. Members of the DFEM faculty involved with the thermal/fluids curriculum will continue to monitor the FE results.


Beginning in the of Fall 2003, the Department of Engineering Mechanics (DFEM) at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) assumed ownership of thermal/fluids systems engineering (TFSE) courses required of its majors. These courses include thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer. As part of this change, DFEM decided to switch to an integrated approach to teaching these courses to provide continuity between these subjects. While this is new to USAFA, there are several other schools that have already implemented a similar approach, e.g. the Massachusetts Institute of Technology1 and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute2. The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam seemed an appropriate metric upon which to base the efficacy of this new integrated approach to thermal/fluids engineering courses.

The first three courses share the same 3 blocks, which coincide with the 3 subject disciplines: thermodynamics, heat transfer and fluid mechanics. While beginning with an emphasis on thermodynamics, the fourth course deals primarily with different methods of energy conversion. Engineering Mechanics (EM) majors are required to take Thermal/Fluids Systems Engineering (TFSE) I and II, while Mechanical Engineering (ME) majors are required to take TFSE I-III; the fourth course, TFSE IV, is an elective for ME majors. Table 1 shows the goals and objectives for each course.

Powell, O., & Maixner, M. (2007, June), Assessing A New Thermal/Fluids Systems Curriculum Using Fe Results Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2009

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