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Incorporating Active Learning into a Thermal System Design Lecture

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Design Based Energy Education

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.727.1 - 23.727.24



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Paper Authors


Jennifer M Peuker University of Alaska, Anchorage

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Jennifer Mott Peuker recieved her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2012, where her research focus was on aluminum combustion in explosive fireballs. In addition, she has two teaching certificates from the University of Illinois Center for Teaching Excellence. In the Spring 2013 semester, she was a Term Assistant Professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage in the department of Mechanical Engineering, where she taught the freshman level engineering practices course, with an emphasis on computer programming using MATLAB and communication. Her teaching interests are in the area of thermo-fluids and freshmen engineering. Her current research is focused on the success of freshmen engineering students, and implementing a flipped classroom by using Team-Based Learning in engineering core courses. Jennifer can be reached at

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Steffen Peuker University of Alaska Anchorage

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Dr. Steffen Peuker is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Director of the Thermal System Design Laboratory at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is teaching the Thermal System Design, Thermal System Design Laboratory, HVAC Systems Optimization and Introduction to Engineering courses. His work in engineering education focuses on hands-on undergraduate engineering education in the HVAC&R area, student-industry cooperation, and developing innovative ways of merging engineering fundamentals and engineering in practice and research. Dr. Peuker's educational research also focuses on increasing student retention and success in engineering through a student success focused introduction to engineering course. He is an active member of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers and can be reached at

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Incorporating Active Learning into a Thermal System Design LectureMany mechanical engineering departments offer a thermal systems design (or similar) course forsenior students. Some courses have a laboratory component, but many are a lecture only format.This paper demonstrates how active learning—through virtual labs, a semester long project, andin-class assignments—can be incorporated into the lecture portion of a thermal systems designcourse to enhance learning and give the students a laboratory experience without a physicallaboratory. The active learning ideas can also supplement the learning during lecture for thosecourses which have a designated laboratory time.The model for active learning in a thermal systems design course was used by the authors forthree courses at two universities, in which the course was taught in a lecture only setting. Thelecture was held in a computer lab for at least one hour per week (out of the 3 hours of lecturetime per week), and used Engineering Equation Solver (EES) software to facilitate the activities.The authors used virtual labs, short in-class assignments, and a semester long project toencourage exploration of the lecture topics by the students.Short in-class assignments can replace examples done in class on the board by the instructor. Forexample, the students were given a partial code and asked to complete the engineering analysisand check answers. Virtual labs are easy to implement in EES, and can be run during the lecturetime by the students. A benefit of virtual labs (even for courses having a physical lab) is thatcostly—both in time and money—scenarios can be explored: such as using different refrigerantsin a system, or determining when a system might fail. A semester-long project that is guided andworked on during lecture not only gives the students an opportunity to incorporate the lecturetopics into one working model, but also gives the instructor time to work with the students inclass to answer questions and ensure the students are on the right track toward a solution.Incorporating active learning into a thermal systems design course can give students more handson experience than a lecture only format. Student feedback from the courses indicates that thestudents enjoyed doing the semester long project, and learning EES. In addition, the studentslearn about team work, and professional writing while doing the semester long project, as well astake an active role in their learning for the semester.

Peuker, J. M., & Peuker, S. (2013, June), Incorporating Active Learning into a Thermal System Design Lecture Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19741

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