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Student Automobile Engines Used In Applied Thermodynamics Laboratory

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Technology Curriculum

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1306.1 - 12.1306.10



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Paper Authors


Alberto Gomez-Rivas University of Houston-Downtown

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Alberto Gomez-Rivas is Professor of Structural Analysis and Design and Chair of Engineering Technology, University of Houston-Downtown. Dr. Gomez-Rivas received two Ph.D. degrees: from the University of Texas, Austin, Texas, in Civil Engineering and from Rice University, Houston, Texas, in Economics. He received the Ingeniero Civil degree, with Honors, from the Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia. He also served as Chief of Colombia’s Department of Transportation Highway Bridge Division and is a Registered Professional Engineer. He is the author of over 30 journal articles.

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George Pincus University of Houston-Downtown

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George Pincus is Dean of the College of Sciences and Technology, and Professor at the
University of Houston-Downtown (1986-date). Prior service includes Dean of the Newark
College of Engineering and Professor, New Jersey Institute of Technology (1986-1994). Dean
Pincus received the Ph.D. degree from Cornell University and the M.B.A degree from the
University of Houston. Dr. Pincus has published over 40 journal articles, 2 books and is a
Registered Professional Engineer.

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

Student Automobile Engines Used in Applied Thermodynamics Laboratory


This paper describes the experience of a professor with extensive testing background teaching a Thermodynamics course that was unpopular with students because of lack of tangible concepts and applications. He compared the experience that students had in courses in structural design where students were building and testing beams and had the opportunity to see cracks and deformations of structures at failure with the one of students in thermodynamics, an esoteric field that includes difficult to understand concepts such as enthalpy and entropy. The thermodynamics course offered in the past lacked practical laboratory experiences to illustrate application of theoretical principles that may provide lasting scientific student comprehension. He knew that engineering technology requires that applied thermodynamics courses include real world applications. Furthermore, courses on the subject must provide students with useful, lasting, and practical knowledge.

The problem presented to this professor was that laboratories with operating engines, turbines, and heat exchangers, are difficult and expensive to maintain and operate by a small engineering technology department. He had confronted a similar situation in a research university, during his graduate years, testing real structures and lacking testing equipment. However, nearby was a warehouse full of Navy equipment from the Second World War. Using cranes, gun turrets and jacks he developed the necessary testing equipment. The professor was also a car nut and expended many hours in the garage and was very active in automotive organizations. One morning going to school preoccupied with the lack of laboratories for his thermodynamics class, he went to the garage and saw his dream laboratory shown in Figure 1. At that moment, he realized that he had a full thermodynamics laboratory with engines, superchargers, heat exchangers, and instrumentation. Furthermore, he had all necessary technical manuals and specifications. On the other hand, in a class of fifteen to twenty students there are the same number of engines found in the vehicles owned by the students and the instructor that can be used to provide a practical and interesting laboratory for teaching applied thermodynamics.

Analysis of student course evaluations and exit interviews of graduates indicated great dissatisfaction with the Thermodynamics course offered in the past due to lack of applied laboratory work. This was the main motivation for the use of automobiles to provide working laboratory experiences. The same evaluation instruments indicated great satisfaction with the new course described in this paper.

The engineering aspects of the automobile have been lost under the cover imposed by body designers and outstanding operational characteristics make it unnecessary to open the hood or check the oil level. Furthermore, the complex computer systems used for operation and diagnostics keep users away from the mechanical systems of the car. The course opens the eyes of engineering technology students to the operation of this machine that is of great importance in modern society.

Gomez-Rivas, A., & Pincus, G. (2007, June), Student Automobile Engines Used In Applied Thermodynamics Laboratory Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1479

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