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The Engineering Of Everyday Things: Simple Experiments In 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

Thermodynamics, Fluids, and Heat Transfer II

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1215.1 - 14.1215.36



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Paper Authors


Gerald Recktenwald Portland State University

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Gerald Recktenwald is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Chair of the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Portland State University. He has a BSME degree from Cornell University, and MS and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota. His research interests are in fluid mechanics, heat transfer, numerical analysis, and improving undergraduate engineering education.

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Robert Edwards Pennsylvania State University, Erie

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Robert Edwards is a Lecturer in Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University at 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 a MS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Gannon University

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Douglas Howe Portland State University

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Douglas Howe is a graduate of the PSU BSME program with several years of experience working as a Mechanical Engineer for Electro-Scientific Industries. He is currently enrolled in the PSU Center for Science Education, working toward his Masters of Science Teaching. He is a Noyce Fellow and a research assistant on the Engineering of Everyday Things project.

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Jenna Faulkner Portland State University

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Jenna Faulkner is a student in the BSME program at Portland State University. She is a research assistant on the Engineering of Everyday Things project. In addition to working on the EET project she is working on a second major in Physics, and is active in the PSU chapters of Engineers Without Borders, Tau Beta Pi: the Engineering Honor Society, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

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Calvin Hsieh Portland State University

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Calvin Hsieh is an engineer in the Hydroelectric Design Center Branch of the US Army Corps of Engineers in Portland, Oregon. He recently completed his MSME degree at Portland State University. His research and MS Thesis were on the Engineering of Everyday Things Project.

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

The Engineering of Everyday Things: Simple Experiments for the Thermal and Fluid Sciences

Abstract A series of demonstrations and laboratory exercises have been developed to teach fundamental concepts in the thermal and fluid sciences of the undergraduate engineering curriculum. This material is part of an educational research project called the Engineering of Everyday Things. The title reflects the use of common technology like hair dryers, blenders, toasters and bicycle pumps, which are used to demonstrate principles of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer. The project also uses simple laboratory devices such as pipes with sudden expansions and open tanks of water. This paper provides an overview of the EET project and shows how this material can be used as in-class demonstration or as in guided-inquiry laboratory exercises. Representative results of formative assessment for the in-class demonstrations, learning gain, and attitude change for the guided-inquiry exercises are given.

Introduction The Engineering of Everyday Things (EET) project introduces simple exercises for laboratory classes or for use as in-class demonstration, or as supplemental instruction outside of the class. 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 consumer items is designed to engage students by demonstrating the relevance of their coursework to their everyday lives. Because the equipment is simple or familiar to students, we believe they are more likely to reveal their misconceptions about the core concepts necessary for the equipment to function. The EET laboratory exercises use a guided inquiry approach to challenge student misconceptions, and to promote deeper understanding through qualitative reasoning.

This paper gives an overview of the project and presents some research highlights on student learning gains and attitude change. Details of specific exercises are presented in companion papers. Our 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.

Overview of Laboratory Equipment and Exercises The laboratory exercises share some common ideas. First, the experimental hardware is simple, and where possible uses everyday technology such a blender, a hair dryer, or a toaster. A series of fluid mechanics experiments use simple hardware to explore the hydrostatic equation, transient mass conservation and jet momentum, the Bernoulli equation, and the Energy Equation.

Recktenwald, G., & Edwards, R., & Howe, D., & Faulkner, J., & Hsieh, C. (2009, June), The Engineering Of Everyday Things: Simple Experiments In The Thermal And Fluid Sciences Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4936

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015