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Experiential Learning in the Thermal Sciences: Introducing and Reinforcing Fundamental Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer Principles to K-12 and Engineering Undergraduate Students

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Thermodynamics, Fluids, and Heat Transfer I

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Arden Moore Louisiana Tech University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Moore graduated with his B. S. in mechanical engineering from Louisiana Tech University in 2001, followed by his Master’s and Ph. D. degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2007 and 2010, respectively. During his time in graduate school he worked in the fields of thermoelectric nanostructures, nanoscale energy transport physics, and advanced thermal conductivity characterization of supported and suspended graphene while publishing in such journals as Nano Letters, Applied Physics Letters, Journal of Heat Transfer, Physical Review B, and Science. As a Thermal Advisory Engineer for IBM’s Systems & Technology Group from 2011 to 2013 he designed and developed electronics thermal management solutions from the die level up to full server systems.

Dr. Moore joined the mechanical engineering faculty at Louisiana Tech in September of 2013. He holds a joint appointment with the Institute for Micromanufacturing (IfM) where he works on advanced materials and devices for energy applications with an emphasis on nanoscale thermal energy transport. His graduate school focus and industry experience feed directly into his engineering education efforts at Louisiana Tech where he teaches several courses in the thermal/fluids area including ENGR 222 (Thermodynamics I), MEEN 332 (Thermodynamics II), MEMT 313 (Elementary Fluid Mechanics), and MEEN 353 (Heat Transfer).

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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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