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Flowing Your Way Through Equations: Putting The Decisions In The Hands Of The Students

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

New Ideas in Energy Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.615.1 - 9.615.13



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Paper Authors

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Laura Genik

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Craig Somerton

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

Flowing your way through equations: Putting the decisions in the hands of the students

Laura J. Genik, Craig W. Somerton University of Portland / Michigan State University

Abstract In the teaching of thermodynamics and heat transfer, there are two subject matters that baffle and bewilder students, obscuring the education process. In thermodynamics it is property evaluation and in heat transfer it is transient conduction. Property evaluation becomes a mass of tables and interpolation. Transient conduction is several different sets of differential equations and dimensionless numbers that look like a bunch of z’s and w’s all strung together. In an attempt to clarify this for the students a set of flowcharts and decision trees have been designed to guide the selection of the appropriate model for both property evaluation and transient conduction. This further fosters the solution methodology that is emphasized in both courses. It also emphasizes a pattern to problem solving that is essential for successful engineering. In the paper that follows, the methodological approach to both these befuddled topics is outlined.

Introduction Some students look back on their courses and recall only the mundane; for instance the response to a question of a 5-year graduate concerning what they remember of thermodynamics, might be the interpolation and not the modeling decisions they were making with regards to the properties. The same may be said of transient heat conduction, the alum may only recall using dimensionless numbers with different characteristic length, but not why the problems were solved in that manner. The essentials of engineering education include the ability to make informed modeling decisions during problem solving. To this end, several flowcharts and decision trees have been designed to clarify these concepts to the students with regards to these to topics.

Thermodynamic Property Evaluation Students need to begin to formulate decisions on modeling very early in their engineering curriculum. Thermodynamics, taken in either the sophomore or junior year, is probably the first course for many students where these decisions are expected to be made by the individual and probably one of the greatest reasons that students initially dislike the course. For instance, students must be able to decide when something can be modeled as an ideal gas. This is typically the only equation of state that they are familiar with when they enter the course and would prefer to apply it for all circumstances. To assist students in learning decision making, we have found the flowchart in Appendix 1 to be very helpful. The flowchart is used in conjunction with the information presented in Appendix 2, to complete the learning of property evaluation. The flowchart emphasizes the thought process students should be following as they approach thermodynamics

Genik, L., & Somerton, C. (2004, June), Flowing Your Way Through Equations: Putting The Decisions In The Hands Of The Students Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13743

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