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Promoting Student Engagement In Thermodynamics With Engineering Scenarios (Year 2)

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1012.1 - 13.1012.10



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Paper Authors

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Patrick Tebbe Minnesota State University-Mankato

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Stewart Ross Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Michael Ostendorf Minnesota State University-Mankato

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Scott Cray Minnesota State University-Mankato

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

Promoting Student Engagement in Thermodynamics with Engineering Scenarios (Year 2)

I. Introduction

Many thermo-fluids courses are taught with traditional teaching methods and textbooks. Thermodynamics, in particular, is prone to elicit a negative impression from students "who perceive the subject as dry and abstract.”1 While there has been progress in recent years, there are still limited visual aids depicting actual equipment or industry settings. Even though the topics covered often have a real-world basis they are generally simplified and only offer a superficial impression of industry applications. This is especially true in the first thermodynamics course which is theory heavy. The result is that many students have excessive difficulty with the subject and do not develop a "feel" for the topic or the associated real-world equipment 2,3. Felder et al. have summarized this best by stating that without student interest or a belief in the need to learn the material, a course “stimulates neither interest nor motivation to learn. The fact that many students in these courses appear apathetic and do poorly…should not come as a surprise”.4 The relevant educational research and literature is clear in the belief that greater student impact, understanding, and retention can only be achieved with greater student engagement5.

Through a NSF Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) grant, supplementary course material for thermodynamics is being designed for dissemination/production in an electronic format and for use with standard thermodynamic textbooks on the market. The material will include descriptions of real-world settings, each with several skills based (i.e. standard homework) and design-based problems specified. The combination of real-world setting and problems (along with associated background information and solutions) is referred to as an “Engineering Scenario”. Each Engineering Scenario is based on a real-world engineering facility in a form similar to, but expanded from, a case study. The scenario will include extensive background information on the facility history and purpose, and information on the engineering personnel responsible for the facility. For each scenario a series of problems are being developed. These problems will take one of three possible forms: skill-based problems, short design problems, and large design problems. While each scenario will center around one engineering facility, the topics covered by these problems will span several chapters or topics in a traditional textbook. This will allow problems to be used from a single scenario throughout the semester. It is expected that a greater sense of cohesion and continuity in the material will therefore be generated. In this update material will be highlighted that has been added over the last year and aspects which are under development will be described. This includes several ideas which were generated through student focus groups.

II. Description of the Scenario Concept

A Scenario is generated from a combination of narrative descriptions, skill-based problems, and design problems. Skill-based problems differ from existing textbook problems in that they are written in the context of the existing facility instead of being written in generic terms. By basing

Tebbe, P., & Ross, S., & Ostendorf, M., & Cray, S. (2008, June), Promoting Student Engagement In Thermodynamics With Engineering Scenarios (Year 2) Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4042

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