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Teaching Psychrometrics: A Timely Approach Using Active Learning

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Thermodynamics and Fluid Mechanics Instruction

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1220.1 - 11.1220.14



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Paper Authors


Laura Genik Wayne State University

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Laura J. Genik is currently part-time faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She teaches in the area of thermal engineering, including thermodynamics and heat transfer. Dr. Genik has research interests in transport phenomena in porous media, inverse problems and parameter estimation in heat transfer processes, and computer design of thermal systems. She received her B.S. in 1991, her M.S. in 1994, and her Ph.D. in 1998, all in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University.

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Craig Somerton Michigan State University

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Craig W. Somerton is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Associate Chair of Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University. He teaches in the area of thermal engineering including thermodynamics, heat transfer, and thermal design. Dr. Somerton has research interests in computer design of thermal systems, transport phenomena in porous media, and application of continuous quality improvement principles to engineering education. He received his B.S. in 1976, his M.S. in 1979, and his Ph.D. in 1982, all in engineering from UCLA.

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

Teaching Psychrometrics: A Timely Approach Using Active Learning Introduction

In the past decade several mechanical engineering programs have eliminated a required second course in thermodynamics. In doing so, many topics have been cast aside due to the perception that they cannot be taught in a timely fashion in a single course on thermodynamics. One of these topics is air/water vapor mixtures or psychrometrics. Quite simply, many mechanical engineering programs are graduating mechanical engineers who know nothing about the relationships among temperatures (both dry bulb and wet bulb), relative humidity, and humidity ratio. They are not prepared to work in the climate control industry, perform well on the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam, or prepared to take a higher level course in thermal design. Over the years the authors have re-introduced this topic to the introductory thermodynamics class through an active learning exercise that takes two, fifty minute lecture periods. One of the authors has also used this exercise to prepare students in a thermal design course for conducting thermal environmental engineering studies.

This paper continues with a statement of the learning objectives for the topic. The details of the active learning exercise are then presented. Next an assessment of the students’ learning is conducted using student performance on graded assignments and a student survey. Conclusions and recommendations complete the paper

Learning Objectives

The authors set the following learning objectives for the topic of air/water vapor mixtures:

1. Students understand the properties for air/water vapor calculations. 2. Students can use the psychrometric chart to determine property values. 3. Students understand the physical processes involved in air processing systems 4. Students can use the conservation of water and conservation of energy equations for air/water vapor mixtures to calculate the performance of devices in an air processing system.

These objectives were developed to address the needs of the practicing engineers, background for thermal design courses, and preparation for the Fundamentals in Engineering (FE) exam.

Active Learning Exercise

An active learning experience covering two 50 minute periods has been developed to achieve the learning objectives. The authors have found that sometimes it is not even possible to commit two class periods to this topic. In these cases, learning objectives 1-3 may be addressed in a single 50 minute period.

The first fifty minute period begins with a brief lecture on mixtures and their properties with a specific emphasis on air/water vapor mixtures. A handout or web posting on the definition of


Genik, L., & Somerton, C. (2006, June), Teaching Psychrometrics: A Timely Approach Using Active Learning Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--128

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