Employers want college graduates who have technical knowledge, but are also inquisitive and have good technical judgement. Achieving these skills requires modernized teaching methods that engage students in open-ended assignments where students encounter uncertain data that forces them to question the results of technical computations. These are some of the key reasons for a large energy transformation project underway in an Engineering Technology program. The transformation project crosses traditional course boundaries by highlighting similar energy conversion processes that occur in many different disciplines. As one example of the progress so far, undergraduate students in a thermodynamics course assisted with the installation of an 8 kW solar photovoltaic array on the roof of a campus building. More importantly, a web-based graphic interface was created so that future students access live solar energy data from their laptop or smart phone. A preliminary evaluation of the educational impact shows that students not only gained an appreciation for solar energy, but they had confidence in their ability to develop innovative ideas for improving solar panel performance.
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