Asee peer logo

Assessing and Updating an Undergraduate Thermo-Fluids Laboratory Course

Download Paper |


2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Laboratories I

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.231.1 - 22.231.11



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Gregory J. Michna South Dakota State University

visit author page

Gregory Michna is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at South Dakota State University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006, held positions as a Lecturer at Iowa State University and as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and joined the faculty at SDSU in 2009. He teaches courses in thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, and energy systems. His main research interests lie in the areas of thermal management of electronics and two-phase heat transfer.

visit author page


Stephen Gent South Dakota State University

visit author page

Stephen Gent is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at South Dakota State University. While at SDSU, Stephen has been working to establish a research program that utilizes high-fidelity simulation models for thermo-fluids and energy systems applications. In the fall semester of 2010, Stephen developed and taught a cross-listed undergraduate and graduate level course on simulation-based modeling and design using computational fluid dynamics. Prior to being at South Dakota State University, Stephen worked with the Simulation, Modeling, and Decision Science Division at Iowa State University’s Virtual Reality Application Center. His research while at these institutions included modeling complex multiphase fluid flows and systems of models to optimize engineering designs of energy systems. Stephen has been a coordinating instructor for undergraduate engineering laboratories, including fluid mechanics and heat transfer laboratories. Also, Stephen is actively involved with the ASEE and has earned several awards for excellence in teaching.

visit author page

Download Paper |


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).

Michna, G. J., & Gent, S. (2011, June), Assessing and Updating an Undergraduate Thermo-Fluids Laboratory Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17512

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015