June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Computers in Education
22.901.1 - 22.901.19
Integrating Computing into Thermodynamics: Lessons Learned Melissa A. Pasquinelli and Jeffrey A. Joines Textile Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695 Many engineering curricula around the country are re-evaluating their introductory computerprogramming requirements. Realizing that the standard introductory programming courses nolonger appropriately complement the education of systems engineers (i.e., Textile Engineers(TE) and Industrial and Systems Engineers (ISE)), a new Computer-Based Modeling forEngineers course (TE/ISE 110) that integrates critical thinking and problem solving within acomputational thinking framework has been developed and taught for the past five years. Thisintroductory course is intended to teach students how to model problems relevant to their specificengineering discipline through software platforms (i.e., Excel and VBA) commonly used inindustry. A focus of the course is to encourage students to analyze solutions through thedevelopment of decision support systems. Based on the successful implementation of thiscourse, our goal is to now create a computational thinking thread that spans from the freshman tosenior years, where students can apply their freshman year computing to take computingcompetency to the next level, where they are able to perform high-level computing tasks withinthe context of a discipline. One such course selected by our program is TE 303: Thermodynamics for Textile Engineers,which is an engineering thermodynamics course that is taught from both the molecular andmacroscopic perspectives and is taken in the junior or senior year. TE 303 is offered each fall toabout 25-40 students, most of whom are TE majors. The objective of this action research projectis to determine if homework assignments in TE 303 that utilize Excel with VBA will enhance thestudents’ understanding of thermodynamics concepts and principles, retain the computing skillsthey learned in previous courses and gain experience in adapting these skills to a variety of newapplications, and improve their confidence in utilizing computing for engineering problemsolving. The research questions will be assessed using the following instruments: (1) Surveystudents at the beginning and the end of the course on their confidence and competency onspecific Excel/VBA skills; (2) Compare performance on test problems that are correlated withthe use of specific computing skills, such as a sensitivity analysis of thermodynamic properties;and (3) Perform a self-assessment on homework assignments throughout the semester, and tomake changes to future assignments accordingly. In this paper, we will illustrate the kinds of computing that were utilized in thermodynamics.The project has assessment data over three years where each year was modified based on theprevious year. The lessons learned in introducing computing into engineering courses will beaddressed in terms of the amount of computing exercises to paper calculations and the types ofassistance needed to help students in overcoming the time since taking the first computingcourse. Future directions in this endeavor will also be discussed.
Pasquinelli, M. A., & Joines, J. (2011, June), Integrating Computing into Thermodynamics: Lessons Learned Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18218
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