June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
22.231.1 - 22.231.11
Assessing and Updating an Undergraduate Thermo-Fluids Laboratory CourseA required course for Mechanical Engineering students from the authors’ university is Thermo-Fluids Laboratory. The purpose of this one 1-credit course, usually take in the student’s lastsemester before graduation, is to enrich the student’s understanding of thermodynamics, fluidmechanics and heat transfer principles within an experimental laboratory setting. However, theinstructional materials, including lab manuals, and the series of experiments used in the coursehad been unmodified for several years, and the laboratory equipment’s operational condition hadsteadily declined. The goals of this project were to formally assess the current format of thethermo-fluids laboratory curriculum, to determine shortcomings within the course, and to updatethe laboratory curriculum and equipment based upon the findings of the assessment.An online survey tool was the method chosen to solicit, collect, and assess the opinions ofstudents who had recently taken the course and from the instructors of the course over the pastseveral years. A majority of the students who had taken the course in spring semester 2010 andall of the recent instructors of the course responded to the survey. From the surveys, it wasevident that the students felt there were difficulties linking the concepts of the laboratory courseand the lecture courses of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer. All of the studentsmentioned the operational condition of the equipment as a significant problem. Further, thecomplete lack of computer data acquisition equipment was another complaint frequentlymentioned by the students. Therefore, the majority of the students surveyed did not feel thecourse significantly contributed to their learning in the Mechanical Engineering Program. Similarconcerns were indicated by the former instructors.Based on the survey results, the authors attempted to improve the content of the course, thecondition of the equipment, and the relevance of the lab exercises to the rest of the thermo-fluidscurriculum. Funds were obtained to purchase a computer data acquisition system for use in thecourse. The course improvements, which included revising the series of experimental topics,written report formats, and laboratory group activities, will be detailed in the full paper. At theend of the fall semester 2010 semester, the students who took the updated course will besurveyed in a similar manner to the previous students. The full paper will include an assessmentof the course improvement project based on a comparison of the survey results from the fallsemester 2010 students (post-update) to those of the spring semester 2010 students (pre-update).
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