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Mapping the Forest of Data in Thermodynamics

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Innovations in Teaching Physics or Engineering Physics II

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1041.1 - 22.1041.5



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Paper Authors


Yumin Zhang Southeast Missouri State University

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Yumin Zhang
Assistant Professor
Department of Physics and Engineering Physics
Southeast Missouri State University
Phone: (573) 651-2391

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Mapping the Forest of Data in ThermodynamicsThermodynamics is a challenging course for most students, who are used to solving problems byengaging analytical equations. However, the most powerful tool in engineering thermodynamicsis the eighty pages of data tables and diagrams in the appendix of a textbook. Therefore, manystudents are at a loss when dealing with so much information and are unable to fully utilize it tosolve problems. In order to help students learning this course, a new approach is needed. Oneway to do so is to reveal the macroscopic structure of the data, which can serve as a guide to thestaggering wealth of information.Although this data cannot be derived from calculations of simple analytical equations, they areactually well organized. The key concepts here are the state and its properties, and an analogy isa person with his/her possessions. In other words, the properties are organized around the state.In general, the state can be determined by two properties, and then all the other properties can befigured out from the state.Thermodynamics problems often involve some processes, i.e. transition of states, usually withone property unchanged, such as isochoric, isobaric and isothermal processes. Therefore, if theinitial state is specified, the final state can be determined with an additional property. With thefirst law of thermodynamics, heat exchange and work can be calculated easily. For example, inan isochoric process, the amount of heat exchange can be figured out from the difference ininternal energy.The author taught this course two years ago in a conventional way, and he found that the studentshad a hard time in learning it. Now he is teaching it again with this new approach, theimprovement can be revealed by comparing the identical final exams.

Zhang, Y. (2011, June), Mapping the Forest of Data in Thermodynamics Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18322

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