New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
June 29, 2016
Over the past decade, several initiatives have been developed and published regarding innovative freshman engineering programs aimed at increasing experiential learning and student success. The primary goal of these efforts were to improve student understanding, confidence, performance, and retention. These programs have proven to be largely successful in achieving the desired ends and are very popular with the student body; however, it has also been found that a portion of students may struggle when leaving these freshman environments and entering the more traditional engineering courses later in their curriculum. Within mechanical engineering programs, this trend can be especially prevalent for courses centered on the thermal/fluid sciences such as thermodynamics, heat transfer, fluid mechanics, and thermal design.
To address this issue, a pilot program has been developed which incorporates new in-class hands-on activities, demonstrations, and teaching styles into two different thermal science courses: Thermodynamics I (sophomore year by curriculum, all engineering majors) and Heat Transfer (junior year by curriculum, mechanical engineering majors). The intent is to introduce and reinforce fundamental thermal science concepts via experiential learning in a way that augments rather than replaces traditional lecture material. The objectives of this pilot program are to 1) introduce and reinforce fundamental thermal science concepts via experiential learning, 2) evaluate the effectiveness of these efforts on improving student understanding and performance, 3) reduce the number students requiring repeated attempts to pass thermal science courses, and 4) adapt select activities from the pilot program to be leveraged across multiple K-12 age ranges as part of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) outreach activities.
To date, this program has been in place for three academic sessions of each course. The work presented here will cover results and observations to-date, preliminary evaluations of effectiveness relative to non-pilot program instances, and plans for future work. Grade distribution, pass/fail percentage, and anonymous student feedback surveys are utilized as metrics to evaluating the impact of the pilot program’s changes for each of these courses. Preliminary results show enthusiastic student support and overwhelmingly positive qualitative feedback regarding depth of understanding and interest in thermal science subjects. However, pass/fail percentage and overall grade distributions remain statistically unchanged between academic sessions for both Thermodynamics I and Heat Transfer. Further data gathering and program improvements are planned.
Moore, A. (2016, June), Experiential Learning in the Thermal Sciences: Introducing and Reinforcing Fundamental Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer Principles to K-12 and Engineering Undergraduate Students Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26827
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