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Examining Knowledge Transfer Between Thermodynamics and Mathematics

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Technical Session: Feeling the Heat - Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Alexander John De Rosa Stevens Institute of Technology

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Alexander De Rosa is a Teaching Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology. Alex specializes in teaching in the thermal-fluid sciences and has a background in experimental combustion. He gained his PhD in 2015 from The Pennsylvania State University in this area.

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It is well-established that students have difficulty transferring knowledge and skills between courses in their undergraduate curriculum. At the same time, many college-level courses only concern material relating to the course itself and do not cover how this material might be used elsewhere. It is unsurprising, then, that students are unable to transfer and integrate knowledge from multiple areas into new problems as part of capstone design courses for example, or in their careers. More work is required to better enable students to transfer knowledge between their courses, learn skills and theory more deeply, and to form engineers who are better able to adapt to new situations and solve “systems-level” problems. In this investigation, students in a sophomore thermodynamics class were presented with a sequence of problems that required skills learned in calculus courses to solve. Without guidance, students were initially asked to solve a thermodynamics problem before being given a prompt to activate their prior knowledge and a second chance to solve the problem. Prompting students to activate their prior knowledge was partially successful in improving their performance on the in-class problems but did not significantly improve overall problem solving success. Based on post-activity survey data, a majority of students stated that they felt they had many of the skills needed to solve the thermodynamics problem but that a lack of learning applications in the math curriculum, as well as the large gap in time between completing their math courses and thermodynamics were barriers to their success.

De Rosa, A. J. (2020, June), Examining Knowledge Transfer Between Thermodynamics and Mathematics Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34610

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