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Connecting Lab Experiments To A Design Project

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Alternative-energy Laboratory Experiences

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.357.1 - 14.357.8



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Paper Authors


Laura Genik Michigan State University

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Laura J. Genik is a teaching specialist in the Department Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University. She teaches a broad range of undergraduate courses and thermal-fluid graduate courses. Dr. Genik has research interests in transport phenomena in porous media, inverse problems and parameter estimation in heat transfer processes, and computer design of thermal systems. She received her B.S. in 1991, her M.S. in 1994, and her Ph.D. in 1998, all in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University.

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Craig Somerton Michigan State University

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Craig W. Somerton is an Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the Undergraduate Program for Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University. He teaches in the area of thermal engineering including thermodynamics, heat transfer, and thermal design. He also teaches the capstone design course for the department. Dr. Somerton has research interests in computer design of thermal systems, transport phenomena in porous media, and application of continuous quality improvement principles to engineering education. He received his B.S. in 1976, his M.S. in 1979, and his Ph.D. in 1982, all in engineering from UCLA.

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

Connecting Lab Experiments to a Design Project


A senior level heat transfer laboratory course incorporates a major design and build project competition which accounts for about 1/3 of the course. This project addresses the ABET Mechanical Engineering Program Criteria that requires graduates to possess the ability to design in the thermal engineering area. The remaining 2/3 of the laboratory course consists of standard thermal engineering experiments on such topics as thermocouples, convection, and power plants. A unique feature of these standard experiments is the way in which they support the design project. With the variety of experiments available, the students run demonstration experiments that emphasize certain key features of the design project, such as geometry and heat transfer relations. This approach provides the students with a sense of continuity in the course and an understanding of problem solving in the experimental realm. This connectivity is further enhanced through the incorporation of a team building experiment that is a mini-version of the design project, which is conducted during one of the 2-hour lab periods early in the course.

This paper presents the several different design projects that are used in the course and the supporting standard experiments for each of the projects. Resource implications for teaching a lab course in such a fashion are discussed. Finally, student feedback to this approach is analyzed.


The senior level heat transfer course consists of nine demonstration experiments. These are traditional hands-on experiments for the students which include data processing, technical writing, and presentation of the data. Of these demonstration experiments, two are tours of campus facilities, one involves the fabrication and calibration of thermocouples, one focuses on the determination and analysis of errors in experimentation, and one is a design of experiment. The remaining four experiments are changed semester to semester in support of the design and build project. These four experiments focus on basic principles of heat transfer, modeling techniques, and team building. As a whole these demonstration experiments cover the first nine weeks of the semester. The remaining weeks concentrate on the design project.

The design project changes from semester to semester, is open-ended and incorporates many aspects of heat transfer. The various projects run the gambit of radiation, phase change, convection and conduction as the major modes of heat transfer. The design challenge incorporates a major design experience in the thermal sciences in accordance with ABET criteria to design, build, and test in thermal/fluids area. The metric goal for this program outcome is that ninety-five percent of the students shall exceed the minimum competency level on their ME 412 design project. For the fall semester 2008, 93% met the metric goal. For completeness sake, the course learning objectives are included.

Genik, L., & Somerton, C. (2009, June), Connecting Lab Experiments To A Design Project Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5041

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