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Simple Experiments For The Thermal And Fluid Sciences

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Laboratories in Engineering Technology

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1058.1 - 14.1058.17



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Paper Authors


Robert Edwards Pennsylvania State University, Erie

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Robert Edwards is currently a Lecturer in Engineering at The Penn State Erie, The Behrend
College where he teaches Statics, Dynamics, and Fluid and Thermal Science courses. He earned a
BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology and an MS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Gannon University.

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Gerald Recktenwald Portland State University

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Gerald Recktenwald is an Associate Professor in the Mechanical and Materials Engineering
Department at Portland State University. He is a member of ASEE, ASME, IEEE and SIAM. His
research interests are in fluid mechanics, heat transfer, applications of numerical analysis, and in improving undergraduate engineering education.

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


Simple Experiments for the Thermal and Fluid Sciences

Abstract: An NSF funded project called The Engineering of Everyday Things (EET) uses simple, everyday devices to help teach core concepts in the thermal and fluid sciences. Exercises are being developed which can be used for laboratory classes, in-class demonstrations, or as supplemental instruction outside of the class. It is also possible to extend the time spent on the exercise by incorporating portions of them into a standard classroom lecture. The desired outcomes of the exercises are to overcome students’ misperceptions and to increase their understanding of the underlying core concept involved in the exercise.

The EET exercises use simple hardware that is either based on consumer items like a hair dryer or a blender, or simple equipment like an open tank of water or a duct with a change in area. The use of familiar or simple equipment is designed to engage students by demonstrating the relevance of their coursework to their everyday lives. Additionally, the use of the simple equipment reduces the need for the students to concentrate on the operation of the equipment and allows them to focus more on the concepts involved. The EET laboratory exercises use a guided inquiry approach to challenge student misconceptions, and to promote deeper understanding through qualitative reasoning.

The purpose of this paper is to give an overview of the project and to present some of our research highlights on student learning gains and attitude change. Details of specific exercises are presented in companion papers. The goal is to develop interest in this approach to instruction and to show faculty how they can easily incorporate these ideas into their lecture-based and laboratory-based classes.

Introduction: This paper reports on some of the work being done to develop active laboratory exercises to teach core concepts in the fluid and thermal sciences. The authors are currently developing a suite of seven exercises as part of an NSF funded project called “The Engineering of Everyday Things” (EET). In these exercises students are asked to perform experiments using common devices that they are already familiar with. This paper reports on work done to date on exercises using a hair dryer, a blender and a computer power supply. Other exercises which are described in other papers involve such simple devices as a toaster, a tank of water, a bicycle pump and a pipe with a sudden change of area. We believe that the use of simple equipment that is familiar to the students frees the students to concentrate on the principles involved rather than on trying to figure out the equipment. The use of simple equipment is not new. A hair dryer is a very common device used as teaching tools. For example, Alvarado asks students to design their own thermodynamic experiments, one of which is based on a hair dryer1. Weltner uses a hair dryer as part of an experiment to determine the specific heat capacity of air2. Shakerin describes an experiment incorporating a hair dryer to demonstrate both the first and second laws of

Edwards, R., & Recktenwald, G. (2009, June), Simple Experiments For The Thermal And Fluid Sciences Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4941

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