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Design Of A Standalone Tcs/Computing System For Teaching Thermal Behavior

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Curriculum Development in Mechanical ET

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.372.1 - 8.372.9



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Paper Authors

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Timothy Cooley

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

Session # 2647

Design and Use of a Standalone TCS/Computer System For Teaching Thermal Behavior

Tim Cooley Purdue University, School of Technology

While the modern desktop computer used by students today is a valuable analytical and computational tool, it is rarely studied in the classroom as a thermal system. In order to effectively study such a potentially complex system however, there are difficulties that must be overcome. The most tangible difficulty concerns the cost and complexity of instrumenting and controlling the computer while still retaining its original thermal behavior. On a more abstract level are difficulties regarding an effective approach to the concepts that would be meaningful to mechanical engineering technology students in an associate’s degree program.

A system called the Thermal Computing System (TCS) was designed and installed in a desktop computer to provide a simple, very low cost solution to the first difficulty. It allows students to observe, test, and record in real-time the thermal behavior and effects of individual components and parameters of the same desktop computer in which it is installed. However, the question of how to effectively use this TCS/computer to teach potentially complex heat transfer concepts to sophomore engineering technology students remains.

This paper first summarizes the design and behavior of the TCS/computer that makes straightforward and inexpensive exploration of a desktop computer’s thermal behavior possible. It then proposes a pedagogical approach to the exploration of thermal systems such as this that would be appropriate in a 2-year engineering technology program.

TCS/Computer Design

To present a viable computer project to a class for laboratory-based analysis, the computer should be both generic and inexpensive. An older system of modest speed and capability was selected. This system began its life as a basic circa mid-1990s desktop IBM clone containing a 166 megahertz Pentium 1 processor, 2.8 GB hard drive, Verge video card, 12X CD drive, and a 250W power supply. Software consisted of the basics as well; Microsoft Windows 98 II and Office. In a previous life it had been a student-access computer on campus.

To convert this computer into an effective teaching tool the project had the following constraints. First, data acquisition hardware couldn’t cost significantly more than the computer itself (which was free). Naturally this eliminated all known commercial DAQ packages. Secondly, potential software for data display and storage must have minimal cost, RAM, and hard drive storage requirements, primarily as a result of the platform chosen. Additionally, an infinitesimal learning

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Cooley, T. (2003, June), Design Of A Standalone Tcs/Computing System For Teaching Thermal Behavior Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12287

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