Employers are asking for college graduates that have the ability to not only apply technical expertise, but also to work with new information, collaborate, innovate and solve open-ended problems. That is why a transformation project is underway to develop a new undergraduate energy systems curricula that crosses traditional course boundaries to teach students that similar energy conversion processes occur in many different disciplines. Courses in thermodynamics, electrical power generation, fluid power, manufacturing processes, and internal combustion engines are all being modified to show basic energy conversion processes as a unifying and integrating theme. The laboratory experience in the thermodynamics course is being re-designed so that students work in small groups on open-ended projects to gain a deeper understanding of the data acquisition equipment, including troubleshooting, as well as thermodynamics principles that are being investigated.
The paper focuses on one re-designed laboratory experiment, scheduled for two two-hour sessions. In the first session students explore how a Data Acquisition (DAQ) works, including hardware, software, and troubleshooting. In the second session students evaluate heat exchangers, acquire data, and answer questions about the setup. The test apparatus has been modified to allow access to all the DAQ signals, and to provide all technical information about plumbing and wiring so students can better understand how the heat exchanger works. The goal is to improve student competency by providing to a not-too-complex laboratory setup so that they can understand it in two relatively short laboratory sessions. The paper presents details on how students run the experiment and how the evaluation of their competency of this experiment was evaluated.
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