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The One Page Thermodynamics Course

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.423.1 - 2.423.5



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Paper Authors

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Jerry W. Samples

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

Session 3233

The One-Page Thermodynamics Course

Jerry W. Samples University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown


While the title may be a little misleading, for those who have experienced it, this one page may have saved their academic careers. This paper illustrates how to take a complex subject and make it less overwhelming.

Some years ago, several students who were overwhelmed with thermodynamics came in search of help in understanding this often difficult course. Understand that this was a one- semester course that covered the lion’s share of a standard thermodynamics text. The breadth of the material included everything in a two-semester thermodynamics course except combustion, availability, and compressible flows. The shear volume of the material covered in just 40 lessons was enough to make the hearty faint, not to mention the majority of the students. Realizing that a problem existed and after some study into the use of mind-maps, an attempt to tie thermodynamics together on a single sheet of paper using this method seemed to be a worthy challenge.

The first attempt at mapping the course revealed a need to carefully choose the starting point; both in the course and on the paper. The purpose of mapping is to prepare a visual that grows logically to assist in understanding the material. Topics should be distinct, allowing for expansion for closer study. It is imperative that the process not be confusing and that the result accurately depict the course material presented.

The beauty of this system is that it is transferable to other courses. It also works when developing a curriculum for a discipline specific program such as mechanical or electrical engineering. The difficulty is that the developer must be acutely aware of the subject matter and its pitfalls.

This paper summarizes the method and demonstrates its applicability to Thermodynamics. General applicability follows as the method is developed and fine-tuned. Real-time demonstrations of mapping is more complex and requires the ability to erase.


Covering 80% of the average classical Thermodynamics course in 40 lessons requires students to assimilate a large quantity of material in a relatively short period. Considering that the book is over 950 pages in 16 chapters1 with the appropriate appendices, just the size of the book is formidable. The fact that the material is difficult for most because it is considered esoteric, further complicates the learning process. In many cases, learning is accomplished by hours of travail, with no “real insight” provided by the teachers.

The success of learning by doing is not in question, rather, the concern is what can be done to assist the learner so that hard work leads to understanding in-depth. The goal is to replace drudgery with focused effort that results in comprehension and understanding in-lieu-of knowledge based learning as outlined in Bloom’s Taxonomy. This higher order learning is the

Samples, J. W. (1997, June), The One Page Thermodynamics Course Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6721

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