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Development, Implementation and Assessment of Thermodynamics Lab Kits for Remote Lab Instruction

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Remote Physical Laboratories: Experimentation and Laboratory-oriented Studies

Tagged Division

Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies

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Lamyaa El-Gabry Princeton University

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The pandemic presented challenges across the curriculum and laboratory exercises were especially vulnerable. This paper shows how a Thermodynamics lab that is a core requirement of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering curriculum was transformed to be carried out remotely and synchronously while allowing much needed hands-on experience. Students enrolled in the lab (approx. 50 students) were each sent lab kits that included temperature measuring devices (thermocouple, thermistor), pressure sensors, electronics (resistors, capacitors, breadboards, multimeter) and a Particle Photon which is a WiFi-enabled microprocessor for reading voltage data. The remote lab was structured into three main parts. The first part spanned half the semester and covered the fundamentals including Electronics and circuits, temperature and pressure measurements, and using a hand-made syringe to measure P-V-T relations for an ideal gas. The second part was a solar-powered hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and focused on energy conversion and efficiency concepts. The third is a project where students worked in teams to propose a project in their choice of one of two topics: one is a design project on solar thermal energy and the other is a research project using calorimetry.

The course consists of a 1-hour weekly lecture on Monday morning to discuss theory needed for that week and present skills such as using MATLAB, uncertainty analysis, writing lab reports, etc. Students then meet in the afternoon on one day (Monday-Thursday) for a 3-hr lab session. During this session, they are divided into breakout rooms to meet and work with their peers on that week’s lab and instructors are available in the breakout room to help answer questions. At the end of each week, there is a worksheet to be completed where students tabulate, plot, and discuss results from their lab. In addition to the worksheets there are two major lab reports during the semester and a poster presentation for their project.

This course is taken first semester sophomore year which is when students declare a major; therefore, most students had not met one another prior to this term unless it was per chance in a first-year math/physics/chemistry course which are much larger than courses in the major with multiple sections. Groups were established by the instructor at the start of term and were fixed for the duration of the semester. Lab kits were developed to address ABET outcomes for the lab course which include technical outcomes as well as the ability to communicate results and to work in a team. A pre- and post-lab survey was conducted using E-CLASS. A mid-semester survey was conducted to assess progress in terms of achieving outcomes and to highlight any issues or concerns. Finally, the end of term evaluation that is administered by the University administration will also be evaluated and compared to prior years’ comments to see how the change to remote learning in place of in-person instruction was received by students.

Submitted to: ASEE 2021 Annual Conference – Division of Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies (DELOS)

El-Gabry, L. (2021, July), Development, Implementation and Assessment of Thermodynamics Lab Kits for Remote Lab Instruction Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36977

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