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Investigation Of Computational And Visual Modules To Enhance Learning In Undergraduate Heat Transfer

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Computational Tools and Simulation II

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.814.1 - 15.814.13



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Paper Authors


Nicholas Roberts Vanderbilt University

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Nick Roberts is a Ph.D. candidate at Vanderbilt University where he researches micro/nano-scale thermal transport in solids and liquids and also serves as a teaching assistant in Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer.

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Greg Walker Vanderbilt University

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Greg Walker is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University specializing in Heat Transfer and Energy Conversion in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

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

AC 2010-1783: Investigation of Computational and Visual Modules to Enhance Learning in Undergraduate Heat Transfer

N.A. Roberts and D.G. Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN USA, 37325


Engineering concepts can be difficult for some types of learners when the problem or system un- der consideration is difficult to visualize. Visual and computational tools can be a useful way to show students the problem thus making it easier to understand. This work looks at how new tools designed for can be use in an undergraduate heat transfer course to aid in the understanding and learning of specific concepts and engineering design. is thermal science cyberinfrastructure comprised of community-contributed resources designed for educational applications, professional networking and research simulation tools for heat transfer. These tools allow additional depth and design content to be incorporated into the course. They have been used in the lectures as demonstrations of concepts and sample problems, they have been available as optional resources for assignments and they have been required for some assignments. The results have shown that students participated in a discussion about a concept more often during the demonstrations where they could ask for part of the problem to be changed and be able to see the solution change. The results also showed that when the tools were available, but not required very few students used them unless the tool was appealing for time saving, but when they were required to use the tools they were able to approach the problem and think about the fundamental concepts as opposed to focusing on getting the correct solution. These results show that the visual and computational tools used here were not necessary for many of the problems encountered for homework problems, but attractive for use on design type problems. A fair percentage of the stu- dents enjoyed and learned from the in-lecture demonstrations. A small percentage of the students chose to use the tools outside of class to better their understanding of the concepts instead of just learning enough to get the correct solution.


The use of technology in the classroom has reduced the work load for instructors and offers the potential for improved learning, but many time the use of technology alone fails to grasp the at- tention or interest of the students enrolled. Interactive demonstrations, whether computer-based or hands-on, have been shown to enhance comprehension especially when dealing with higher level concepts often encountered in science and engineering courses [1–5]. Though hands-on activities are likely more effective for student learning, in class demonstrations of simulation tools related to


Roberts, N., & Walker, G. (2010, June), Investigation Of Computational And Visual Modules To Enhance Learning In Undergraduate Heat Transfer Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16719

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