Albuquerque, New Mexico
June 24, 2001
June 24, 2001
June 27, 2001
6.358.1 - 6.358.12
Developing Problem-Solving Skills in Thermodynamics Courses Frederick H. Reardon California State University, Sacramento
In teaching thermodynamics, it is essential to teach a systematic problem-solving methodology because of the nonlinear structure of the subject. The methodology is based on the structure of thermodynamics and so helps to clarify and organize the scientific concepts involved. The methodology has seven steps: (1) Restate the problem; (2) Define the system under consideration and the kind of process involved. Define the system and the kind of process involved; (3) Express the Principles (Laws) of Thermodynamics in a form suitable to the system and process; (4) Determine what Properties are involved and how to find values for them; (5) Describe the Process in terms of the changes in system properties Describe the Process in terms of the changes in system properties; (6) Substitute the known property values and process relations into the Principles equations; and (7) Calculate the desired answers and check their reasonableness. Most students respond favorably to this problem-solving approach. Although this methodology has been developed specifically for thermodynamics, a similar approach can be helpful in other subject areas.
Problem-solving is an important skill in all areas of engineering and technology. However, in teaching thermodynamics, it is essential to teach a systematic problem-solving methodology in order that the the scientific concepts can be mastered. Thermodynamics is not a linear subject. In fact, it seems to me that it has a triangular structure, consisting of Principles, Processes, and Properties (Figure 1). In each of these three areas, there are numerous equations. Until they understand the structure of the subject, students tend to be overwhelmed by the number of equations, constants, and parameters. They want an example for every possible kind of problem, so that they can know how to get the answers to homework and exam problems. Rather than doing that, which is really impossible, I teach them a structured problem-solving methodology. The methodology is based on the structure of thermodynamics and so helps to clarify and organize the scientific concepts involved.
The methodology, which has been developed on the basis of three decades of helping students to solve thermodynamics problems, has seven steps:
(1) Restate the problem or question so that you really know what is to be found. This is relatively easy in the classroom, but may be more difficult in an industrial setting.
Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2001, American Society for Engineering Education
Reardon, F. (2001, June), Developing Problem Solving Skills In Thermodynamics Courses Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. https://peer.asee.org/9108
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