Asee peer logo

Thermodynamics in the Arts

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Mechanical Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1260.1 - 24.1260.13



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Heather E Dillon University of Portland Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Heather Dillon is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Portland. Her teaching focuses on thermodynamics, heat transfer, renewable energy, and optimization of energy systems. She currently leads a research team working on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and fundamental heat transfer.

Before joining the university, Heather Dillon worked for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) as a senior research engineer. Dr. Dillon's research at PNNL supported the US Department of Energy and included both energy efficiency and renewable energy systems. In 2007 she received the Department of Energy Office of Science Outstanding Mentoring Award for her work with students.

Dr. Dillon received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington with support from a NSF Fellowship. She also received a M.S. in Applied Mathematics from the University of Washington and a M.S. and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Idaho.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Thermodynamics in the ArtsThermodynamics is a difficult course for many undergraduate students due in part to thecomplex nature of the concepts learned. Pedagogical literature has suggested that studentslearn difficult concepts better when they are presented in different formats that addressdifferent learning styles (auditory, visual, etc). During the last two years a new studentproject called “thermodynamics in the arts” has challenged students in an introductorythermodynamics course to represent one thermodynamic concept in an art project. Eachteam of students selected a thermodynamic concept and a different art medium includingpoetry, sculpture, music, painting, drawing, photography, and creative essays. Conceptsthe students visualized included entropy, enthalpy, irreversibility, exergy, phase change,Carnot cycle, Brayton cycle, internal energy, work, radiation, convection, andconduction.Assessment of the artwork used a rubric that included artistic merit, but also the accuracyof the thermodynamic concept explored. A survey of the participating students wasconducted to determine if the intersection of art and thermodynamics helped the studentsconstruct more concrete understanding of the concepts chosen. This paper explores thestudent perceptions of the project, presents examples of the student art projects, andprovides an overview of the pedagogical merits of the project.Figure 1. Example of a student art project exploring the concept of “entropy”.  

Dillon, H. E. (2014, June), Thermodynamics in the Arts Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23193

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: © 2014 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