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Development Of An Integrated Thermal Fluids Engineering Curriculum

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.227.1 - 5.227.11



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Paper Authors

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Richard N. Smith

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Michael K. Jensen

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Deborah A. Kaminski

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Amir Hirsa

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

Session 1566

Development of an Integrated Thermal-Fluids Engineering Curriculum

Richard N. Smith, Deborah A. Kaminski, Michael K. Jensen, and Amir Hirsa

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Aeronautical Engineering, and Mechanics Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Troy, NY 12180-3590


We present a new approach to teaching the core thermal/fluids curriculum for undergraduate programs in engineering. Traditional introductory thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer classes are being replaced with two integrated courses and an integrated laboratory course in which the three disciplines are taught simultaneously. The approach is intended to show interconnections and transferability of concepts and ideas, with an emphasis on the way they occur in engineering practice. Both courses are being taught in a new multimedia studio classroom, permitting student-student interactions, the use of in-class computer tools and examples, as well as individual desktop experiments and demonstration experiments. Our experiences in teaching through this innovative format, in using case studies to motivate student learning of introductory material, and in integrating the laboratory course experience to that of the studio classroom, are recounted.


Fundamental changes in the core thermal-fluid science curriculum for engineers have been initiated at Rensselaer. We seek to improve the context in which material is presented, so that the physical intuition of our students is enhanced, their ability to think critically and to synthesize information is stimulated, and the relevance of the learning process to advanced analytical and computational tools available to the students is made clearer.

This has been accomplished through the development of two distinct, but closely related, courses. The first course, Thermal and Fluids Engineering I (TF1), is a consolidation into a single four- credit course of the essential, fundamental aspects of classical thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer, in a context consistent with engineering practice. The overlapping and reinforcing nature of these subjects is exploited to provide students with a comprehensive foundation in the thermal sciences. The new course provides rigorous coverage of carefully selected topics, suitable for students who need only a limited exposure to thermal and fluid sciences. However, the experience gained by the students also permits them comfortably to take higher level courses in thermodynamics or transport phenomena.

The second course, Thermal and Fluids Engineering II (TF2), designed to be taken in sequence, is a similar consolidation at a higher level for students whose majors require more depth in this area. This course is being characterized by a context-driven presentation and is being integrated with a hands-on laboratory, Thermal and Fluids Engineering Laboratory (TFLab), into a coordinated six-credit hour experience, which serves as one “leg” of the core mechanical

Smith, R. N., & Jensen, M. K., & Kaminski, D. A., & Hirsa, A. (2000, June), Development Of An Integrated Thermal Fluids Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8302

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