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The Virtual Classroom And Laboratory For Thermodynamics Education

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.658.1 - 5.658.4



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Paper Authors

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Nickolas S. Jovanovic

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

Session 2633

The Virtual Classroom and Laboratory for Thermodynamics Education

Nickolas S. Jovanovic University of Arkansas at Little Rock

1. Introduction

Mechanical engineering technology (MET) students at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) are using World Wide Web Course Tools (WebCT) and CyclePad software to enhance their understanding of the thermodynamic cycles employed in important technologies such as refrigeration equipment, automobile engines, and power plants. WebCT is a commercial, web- based software package for designing and delivering web-based education environments. CyclePad is a Windows-based interactive, intelligent learning environment for thermodynamics education developed by the Institute for the Learning Sciences at Northwestern University. WebCT allows instructors to create, without programming, sophisticated web-based classrooms that can help deliver and organize course content, assess student learning, facilitate communications, and provide access control. CyclePad allows students to design and analyze thermodynamic cycles in an articulate virtual laboratory, and to interact with a distributed artificial intelligence (AI) coaching system. CyclePad has been formally evaluated in the mechanical engineering programs at the United States Naval Academy (USNA) and Northwestern University, and in the MET program at UALR. One advantage of CyclePad is that it allows students to start analyzing cycles at the beginning of an introductory thermodynamics course in order to motivate the study of the individual processes that comprise a cycle. The approach taken by many thermodynamics textbooks, including those intended for engineering technology students, is to proceed in the opposite order, i.e., start with processes and synthesize cycles only after laying a theoretical foundation involving abstract concepts such as enthalpy and entropy. Many students, probably the vast majority of students, find these concepts very difficult to understand, but might be more interested in learning about them after seeing how thermodynamics has some important things to say about, say, the fuel efficiencies of the cars they drive.

2. The Synthetic Approach

Many thermodynamics textbooks introduce basic thermodynamic properties such as temperature and pressure, then discuss thermodynamic processes involving heat and work and introduce the

Jovanovic, N. S. (2000, June), The Virtual Classroom And Laboratory For Thermodynamics Education Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8832

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