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Developing Relevant and Practical Projects for a Senior Capstone Thermal Fluids Design Course

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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

Energy Efficiency and Capstone Projects

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Frank Wicks Union College

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Frank Wicks is a member of the mechanical engineering department at Union College in Schenectady. He has served all positions including chair of the Energy Conversion and Conservation Division. He is an ASME Fellow and frequent contributor to Mechanical Engineering magazine. He holds a BMarineE from SUNY Maritime College, a MSEE from Union College and PhD from Rensselaer and is a licensed professional engineer. He is the inventor of the Electricity Producing Condensing Furnace and also defined the Ideal Fuel Burning Engine which is known as the Wicks Cycle.

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A senior capstone thermal fluids design course should present a set of projects that incorporate the fundamental courses that the student have taken in fluids, heat transfer and thermodynamics, along with economic analysis, and considerations of environmental impact and safety. Union College is on a ten week trimester system, which allows for five projects of two weeks each. Students work and rotate in teams of from thee to five, with a leader, analysts and an economist. The grading challenge is mostly addressed by using peer grading, where each team member is graded on participation, along with picking a most valuable player for each team. The other challenge is to develop a set of five projects that are interesting, challenging and relevant. The projects that were developed for the last year were 1) design a crude oil pipeline from Texas to New Jersey of 24 Inch diameter and 250,000 barrels per day with 24 pumping stations, similar to the Big Inch that was constructed in 1943 under the emergency conditions of World War II, 2) convert this pipeline to natural gas, that was done in 1947, to bring the gas that was being wastefully flared at the wellheads in the south to the cities, towns and villages of the north, 3) design a floating natural gas facility, like the Prelude that is offshore in Australia, along with a fleet of tankers to deliver the resulting -259 F liquid product to Japan, 4) design skating rinks, including the chilling system, for public parks with the solar powered compressors and circulators as an option, along with a presentation to the Schenectady City council, and 5) design and build model solar powered toy boats, with hull design and 3D printer construction, competition between teams, along with a marketing analysis. Student start each project by researching and making a Power Point presentation, and another presentation along with a report at the end. Project require a power and energy use analysis, along with environmental impact. A major challenge, that should be recognized as important engineering workplace preparation, is the many physical conversion factors that are required between SI and English units, in terms of distance, volume, along with error checking. Most of the analysis is performed on spread sheets with the required conversion factors, calculations of constants from constants, and the resulting tables and graphs. The importance of developing a single error free reference design is emphasized, and then finding the sensitivity to assumptions, such as the electric energy and cost per barrel as a function of assumed friction factors or flow rates.

Wicks, F. (2017, June), Developing Relevant and Practical Projects for a Senior Capstone Thermal Fluids Design Course Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28149

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