Asee peer logo

Introducing Energy Concepts Into Undergraduate Courses

Download Paper |


2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Project-based Education in Energy Courses

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.800.1 - 15.800.13



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Adrian Ieta State University of New York, Oswego

Download Paper |

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

Introducing energy concepts into undergraduate courses

Students are used to manipulating energy-related concepts from media and everyday life. However, many general education students have never had a physics course and their understanding of energy, its production, use, importance, or impact in their daily life is very limited. We report on innovative efforts to facilitate the understanding of energy-related concepts in a General Education Physics course. We proceed with an initial evaluation of students’ perception of energy concepts, which actually confirms the need for a more thorough understanding of energy concepts and of their importance. Throughout the course, energy concepts are gradually better defined and used for analysis of everyday life activities. Starting with mechanical energy, heat, electrical energy, Faraday induction law and energy conversion, photonic energy, and nuclear energy, physics offers a wide range for defining energy principles and demonstrating their applications and significance. Home projects meant to develop and clarify the use of energy are also assigned. An evaluation of the students’ perception of the energy concepts is finally performed in a separate survey. Questions about energy conservation issues and the factors influencing them are also addressed, along with raising awareness of what students can do to help with energy conservation. The conclusions of our innovative development of the course and its results are detailed. Living in a technologically advanced world places high demands on educated workforce. We are hopeful that the procedures and positive conclusions of our study can be meaningful to other energy educators from other disciplines.

I. Introduction

The entire modern life is based on the consumption of energy essentially for all the human activities. Understanding the continuous increasing thirst for energy, production, use, and storage appears difficult in a developed society where many things available are taken for granted. Many scientific discoveries within the last 20 years have contributed to the development of third world countries become more competitive [1] and their development contributes to an even more acute need for energy. Studies indicate that US high school graduates tend to be less prepared for college studies in STEM areas than many other Western or Asian countries [2]. Science and engineering skills are essential for maintaining the United States’ competitiveness in the increasingly knowledge-based global economy [3]. However, students often lack those skills [1] and are unaware and unable to assemble the impact of common activities around in a larger picture and have appropriate reactions to them. Physics is at the core of understanding energy concepts which are often difficult [4] simply because students may have never had the chance to take a Physics course and comprehend how energy principles are applied and make links to the real world. General class survey related to energy issues revealed such difficulties in our case. Hence, students have often may have very limited room for making any educated decisions relative to the energy concepts and policies in their daily life. Energy generation is fairly well present in our university environment as a fossil-fuel power plant is almost embedded in the university space (Fig. 1 a); moreover, one of the cooling towers (Fig. 1 a), belonging to one of the three nuclear power plant in the vicinity, is also part of the daily view students can have from certain parts of the campus. In such an energy rich environment and with the

Ieta, A. (2010, June), Introducing Energy Concepts Into Undergraduate Courses Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15683

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2010 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015