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Challenges in Teaching an Introductory Graduate Level Course in Thermodynamics

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Thermodynamics, Fluids and Heat Transfer II

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Amir Karimi P.E. University of Texas, San Antonio

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Amir Karimi, University of Texas, San Antonio
Amir Karimi is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). He received his Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Kentucky in 1982. His teaching and research interests are in thermal sciences. He has served as the Chair of Mechanical Engineering (1987 to 1992 and September 1998 to January of 2003), College of Engineering Associate Dean of Academic Affairs (Jan. 2003-April 2006), and the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies (April 2006-September 2013). Dr. Karimi is a Fellow of ASEE, a Fellow of ASME, senior member of AIAA, and holds membership in ASHRAE, and Sigma Xi. He has served as the ASEE Campus Representative at UTSA, ASEE-GSW Section Campus Representative, and served as the Chair of ASEE Zone III (2005-07). He chaired the ASEE-GSW section during the 1996-97 academic year.

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Teaching an introductory graduate level course in thermodynamics can be a challenge due to unequal students’ undergraduate educational background in thermodynamics. Many of students accepted into a mechanical engineering graduate programs have received their undergraduate degrees from various institutions in the United States or from universities in other countries. The semester credit hours required in thermodynamics for an undergraduate mechanical engineering degree varies among institutions. Some degree programs require only three semester credit hour of thermodynamics; few require a four hour course, while others require a two semester course sequence in thermodynamics, totaling six credit hours. In addition, some mechanical engineering graduate students have received their undergraduate degrees in disciplines other than mechanical engineering, such as civil, aerospace, physics, or chemical engineering. Teaching a course in advanced thermodynamics to students with very diverse background is a challenge. A survey is conducted at the start of semester to gauge students’ perception of their knowledge in thermodynamics. The survey is followed by a quiz to assess students’ actual knowledge of the fundamental concepts in thermodynamics. Based on the survey and the quiz results, the lectures are carefully adjusted to help students with weaker background to catch up without making students with stronger background getting board. Selection of a suitable textbook for the course is also another challenge. This paper describes the challenges faced in teaching an introductory graduate course in thermodynamics, and how these challenges are addressed. Examples of homework problems, exam problems, and a project assignment are included.

Karimi, A. (2017, June), Challenges in Teaching an Introductory Graduate Level Course in Thermodynamics Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28023

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