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Integration of Service Learning to Teaching Thermodynamics

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

ECCD - Technical Session 6 - Energy & Thermodynamics

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Farshid Zabihian California State University, Sacramento

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Farshid Zabihian, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering
California State University, Sacramento

Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering,Ryerson University, 2011
M.S. Mechanical Engineering, Iran University of Science and Technology, 1998
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Amir Kabir University of Technology, 1996

Authored or coauthored more than 70 papers in Journals and peer-reviewed conferences.

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Unlike many other engineering subjects, thermodynamic deals with abstract ideas and this makes the course very challenging for many students. Modern and innovative educational technologies and methods have been employed to address this problem include using flipped classes, active learning, and integration of simulation software tools. The integration of service learning is another tool for this purpose. Service learning is an experiential learning approach to foster students’ deeper understanding of intended academic contents of a course through activities involving community partners to address social needs and problems. It is typically in the form of either direct service or project-based activities. Service learning as a pedagogical tool is gradually gaining momentum in engineering programs across the country. In this paper the efforts of the author to introduce service learning to an undergraduate thermodynamic course will be presented. For this purpose, communications with the following museums were initiated: Aerospace Museum of X, Y Science Center, and Z Utility Center. These communications led to identification of the topics of interests for the community partners that were related to thermodynamics and energy. The objective of these projects was to demonstrate thermodynamic- and energy-related concepts to the public audience in general and elementary and middle school students in particular. The students could choose a project from a list of projects that museums were interested in or they could initiate their own project. The staffs from community partners visited the class and explained some of the projects and their general expectations to students. The students prepared a proposal for the project which then was shared with the museum contact persons for their comments and approvals. The students implemented their team projects and prepared a report. Then, they presented their projects to museum staffs and handed over the project to them with the instruction on how to use it for educational purposes. Due to the unexpected university closure, most teams lost two crucial weeks to finalize their projects. While this caused some stress and discomfort, the author’s personal interview with the students after they presented their work to museums indicated general satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. The feedback from museum staffs was very positive and they expressed willingness to continue the collaboration. The addition of service learning to the course was an overall success; however, there are several factors to take into account before full and permanent integration of the approach, including providing the financial support to teams at the beginning of the semester, streamlining the involvement and communication with museums, better communication of pedagogical objectives and project topics to students, better integration of projects to course contents, balancing the service learning component with the overall course load, adding some flexibility to the schedule, and diversifying community partners and projects.

Zabihian, F. (2020, June), Integration of Service Learning to Teaching Thermodynamics Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--33955

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