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Experiments To Accompany A First Engineering Thermodynamics Course

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.258.1 - 4.258.10

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Paper Authors

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T. Scott

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John P. O'Connell

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

Session 1613

Experiments to Accompany a First Engineering Thermodynamics Course

T.C. Scott, J.P. O’Connell University of Virginia

Abstract Engineering Thermodynamics is a challenging subject to learn and teach. Often both students and teachers loose sight of the subject’s physical motivations and connections. We believe these can and should be brought into courses to enhance learning. To this end, we have developed and use a series of laboratory, computer workshop and field trip exercises for the first semester Engineering Thermodynamics course taken by most Chemical and Mechanical Engineers. These illustrate mass/force/pressure/temperature behavior, work/heat interconversion, energy sources, piston/cylinder action, cooling/heating vapor-compression systems, and easy class visits to university chilled water and steam generation facilities. The activities have been designed to maximize student connections to the physical equipment and processes illustrated in common texts. The talk will summarize the approach, some of the equipment setups, and illustrative exercises given to students for in-class and out-of class work. Our intention is to inform other instructors about options they might adopt and adapt for their own courses.

I. Introduction

Thermodynamics is a discipline that deals with the utilization of energy through application of basic Natural Laws commonly using models for fundamental properties. Its study is basic to science and engineering and it is a core subject in most engineering curricula.

Thermodynamics challenges students in several ways. First, the fundamental principles and procedures which must be mastered for successful application are abstract and mathematical. Next, the devices and systems most commonly treated in the initial engineering course, such as engines, steam power and energy conversion, are unfamiliar and appear complex. In addition, this course is where many students first discover that the required problem solving methods are more sophisticated than memorization and merely doing many example problems.

Interestingly, there are more texts on this subject than virtually any other, but no text has ever been credited with dramatically lowering the frustration factor of teachers or learners. The situation has become exacerbated as students’ experience with the real world, such as working with their hands on mechanical and chemical devices, has decreased. While students in years

Scott, T., & O'Connell, J. P. (1999, June), Experiments To Accompany A First Engineering Thermodynamics Course Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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