Asee peer logo

Design of Experiments in Introduction to Thermodynamics 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 and Architectural Engineering Laboratories

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.434.1 - 22.434.16



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Teodora Rutar Seattle University

visit author page

Teodora Rutar Shuman is a Paccar Associate Professor at Seattle University, Department of Mechanical Engineering. She received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Belgrade University, Yugoslavia, and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington. She pursues research in electro-mechanical systems for sustainable processing of microalgae. Email:

visit author page

author page

Gregory Mason Seattle University

Download Paper |


Design of Experiments in Introduction to Thermodynamics CourseAbstractThis paper describes an easily implementable new approach to thermodynamics laboratoryinstruction that directly addresses ABET Criterion b) an ability to design and conductexperiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data. In a traditional lab, students conductpreconfigured experiments based on established procedures. They then gather, analyze andinterpret data, and write reports. However, little is done to train engineering graduates to designexperiments for a specific purpose and without a prescribed procedure. Engineeringprofessionals are frequently tasked with designing experiments to demonstrate performance of adevice they designed or developed inorder to prove a physical phenomenon in a research setting,etc. Hence, it comes as no surprise that ABET has embraced this criterion for close to a decade.Introduction to Thermodynamics requires that students learn basic, yet complicated concepts,such as determining properties of pure substances, calculating heat and work exchanged during aprocess, and the first and second law of thermodynamics, before they can tackle complexapplications, such as thermodynamic cycles or combustion systems. These basic concepts areconducive to simple, conceptually oriented laboratory assignments that parallel the classroominstruction. Those laboratory assignments are an ideal place to implement design of experimentsbecause the concepts are still fundamental and intuitive.We have implemented this approach in our weekly Introduction to Thermodynamics labs. Teamsof 3-5 students are given a set of basic supplies and are tasked with designing an experiment witha specific purpose such as determining the efficiency of a light-bulb as an emitter of light. In thisexperiment they are given a light-bulb with pre-built leads, a plastic cup, a power supply, amp-and volt-meters, a thermometer, a scale, a stirrer, and several other equipmental items they maynot use. Students brainstorm about ways to test efficiency, build a test apparatus, conductmeasurements, and calculate the efficiency.This paper contains examples of four such labs, including the prelab handouts, assignmentdescriptions, equipment lists and photos of student solutions. The paper also summarizes ourassessment of this approach. The assessment utilizes 1) three student surveys, one after the third,second after the seventh, and third after the tenth week (at the end) of the quarter; 2) studentinterviews, and 3) comparison of the lab assignment grades to those in courses that did notimplement that approach. Assessment results will be shown in the paper.

Rutar, T., & Mason, G. (2011, June), Design of Experiments in Introduction to Thermodynamics Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17715

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