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Enhancing Lifelong Learning And Communication Abilities Through A Unique Series Of Projects In Thermodynamics

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Project-Based Education in Energy Conversion

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.670.1 - 12.670.17



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Paper Authors


Margaret Bailey Rochester Institute of Technology

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MARGARET BAILEY, registered professional engineer, is the Kate Gleason Chair and Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering at RIT. She earned her BSE at Pennsylvania State University in 1988 and her Ph.D. at University of Colorado at Boulder in 1998. She conducts research with students using advanced thermodynamic analyses and neural network modeling applied to various, energy-intensive, complex mechanical systems. Dr. Bailey serves in numerous leadership roles within her college, including Executive Director of RIT’s Women in Engineering Program (WE@RIT); ME Department Advocate for Engineering Honors Program; and Member of Multidisciplinary Capstone Design Leadership Team.

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

Enhancing Life-Long Learning and Communication Abilities through a Unique Series of Projects in Thermodynamics


Mechanical engineering courses in Thermodynamics typically provide a detailed treatment of the first and second laws of thermodynamics from a classical viewpoint in order to prepare students for subsequent courses and ultimately, engineering practice. Therefore, thermodynamics courses aim to strengthen a student’s theoretical base and improve analytical skills while focusing on the relevant and timely subject matter of how energy transfer in the form of heat is converted to energy transfer in the form of work. For many students in a thermodynamics class, this is their first opportunity to gain an understanding of how various cycles’ operate and how these same cycles can be analyzed, evaluated, and assessed. A certain level of excitement and enthusiasm can be associated with this new found insight and this paper presents two projects which have been designed to prolong and strengthen students’ interest in areas related to thermodynamics. In 2001, the projects were introduced into thermodynamics courses and over the past five years, each has been refined through an assessment process in order to improve student learning while achieving intended learning objectives. The first is an individual project within Thermodynamics which requires the student to critically read a technical book (selected by student and approved by professor), technically review the book in written form, and orally present results to the class in an informal setting. The second is a team project within Advanced Thermodynamics which requires student teams to create and present a fifteen to thirty minute long presentation/demonstration for a non-technical audience of their choice (pending professor approval). The content of the presentation must strongly relate to Thermodynamics and have direct relevance to the audience. Past student teams have presented to a variety of audiences ranging from college level liberal arts classes to middle and high school science, math, and technology classes.

This paper includes an overview of both projects in their current forms; results of project assessment, including samples of student feedback, which have been collected and analyzed over the past five years; the strategy used during department-level assessment to support outcomes related to life-long learning, communication, and team work abilities; experience gained through translation of projects to other courses; and future plans for project refinement.

I. Introduction

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) has one of the oldest cooperative education programs in the country and therefore RIT firmly believes in learning through doing. The RIT Mechanical Engineering Department offers an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredited degree in mechanical engineering (ME). Each fall, approximately 165 entering first year students select mechanical engineering as a major. All ME majors enroll in Thermodynamics (ME 413) during their second or third years while a subset enrolls in Advanced

Proceedings of the 2007 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2007, American Society for Engineering Education

Bailey, M. (2007, June), Enhancing Lifelong Learning And Communication Abilities Through A Unique Series Of Projects In Thermodynamics Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2582

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