June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Energy Conversion and Conservation
15.1073.1 - 15.1073.18
Solar Cooker Design Project for Thermodynamics Lab
A solar cooker design project was developed to teach energy conversion and the first law of thermodynamics. Student teams were provided with a solar concentrating device (either a 54” diameter spherical mirror or a 27”x36” Fresnel lens) with the task of utilizing it in the design of a safe and easily adjustable solar cooker which minimized convective heat loss. The solar cookers were then third-party tested during a lab involving transient first law analysis of the heating process for water in a pot and in a pressure cooker. Further, testing was done to compare student developed innovations for reducing heat losses. This allowed students to see different solutions to the same problem while comparing performance.
Another aim of this project was to provide junior level engineering students with a first hand experience combining lessons learned in lecture with the practical constraints of designing, building and testing a realistic application. The students were encouraged to be creative in this open-ended project that relied heavily on team-based learning. At the beginning of the semester a pre-project survey was used to allocate crucial skills (mechanical aptitude, writing ability, mathematical skills, etc.) evenly amongst the different teams. Assessment of how the project enhanced student learning was done via graded assignment and student survey. The project culminated in a final report incorporating several main components. The first component was a design analysis which included Solid Works drawings, a bill of materials, a user manual for safe operation of the cooker as well as a discussion on how the team reached its final design decision and compromises made. A lab analysis section incorporated the processing of data collected during the lab as well as theoretical calculations based on material learned in class. The final section called on students to reflect on the lessons learned throughout the process, suggest potential directions for future studies with the solar cookers and discuss the practicality of widespread solar cooker use.
The project appealed to a variety of learning styles and exposing the potential for global impact which can come from applying lessons in new or alternative ways added everyday relevance to the labs.
Perhaps the largest challenge faced in the instruction of introductory thermodynamics is bringing the material to life in a way that is both educational and exciting for the student. One strategy for this is to show students areas where thermodynamics is applied to alternative solutions for everyday problems. The growing area of solar-thermal technologies provides a wonderful opportunity for teachers to combine manageable thermodynamic analyses to an increasingly relevant field. This is especially convenient in a lab setting where a common heat source such as a hot plate can be replaced by a solar collector. As the thermodynamic analysis does not depend on the source of the heat, just
Shepard, T., & George, C. (2010, June), Solar Cooker Design For Thermodynamics Lab Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. https://peer.asee.org/15746
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