Internet of Things: Remote Integrated Laboratory Activities in Green Energy Manufacturing and Energy Management Learning Modules: Heat Exchangers Efficiency, the Design Perspective
The global context regarding energy and sustainability evolved rapidly and what we considered to be emerging technologies less than a decade ago became mature technologies nowadays, already implemented at large scales in industry. Moreover, the constant preoccupation regarding green energy manufacturing as a method of reducing the carbon footprint generated not only the path towards new technologies but also to new educational programs and trends. Following these trends and industry demands, the engineering curricula evolved to include more and more courses in the area of energy conversion, green energy and sustainability. However, several “traditional” courses remained more or less the same, mostly in the area of thermal-fluid areas. While there have been reported several attempts to improve these courses by including project-based learning activities, it was concluded that such projects involving industry-like scenarios where lengthy and costly, and eventually were stopped or replaced with traditional lectures. Nonetheless, these studies and attempts had a significant contribution in underlying the importance of practical approaches in conveying knowledge to students in heat transfer and thermodynamics courses, which traditionally are dry-lecture based. Moreover, the contribution of thermal-fluids energy systems performance in global sustainable development is substantial but was not emphasized until recently. Therefore it may not be reflected in the already developed learning modules for these traditional courses.
In this paper we aim to present our efforts in re-developing our thermal-fluid related courses in Engineering Technology curricula by including several modules involving industry-like scenarios as laboratory activities performed remotely (through Internet), using four heat exchanger configurations and thermography (using a thermal imaging camera) in teaching fundamental principles and notions of heat transfer as well as teaching more complex aspects of heat exchanger design and performance. The scenarios were inspired from manufacturing industry related energy management applications, focusing on giving the students a more global and interdisciplinary understanding of the applications of the imparted knowledge. This lab-lecture integrated approach, with ”in-lecture” Internet based remotely performed activities, complemented by hands-on laboratory activities, significantly improved the understanding, knowledge retention and also it enhanced student motivation. Students were required to compare results obtained through various methods including thermography to discuss and assess system efficiency and design parameters.
As traditional learning methods are time consuming and sometimes impractical, learning through the Internet will significantly increase the access to modern learning tools for all students including minorities and disadvantaged student communities, due to its affordability and ease of use, without curtailing the quality of knowledge conveyed. In recent years due to the Internet advances, the use of virtual and remote distance experiments in engineering education has been well accepted in many different education areas and at many universities. This paper presents an Internet-based remote platform conceived for the study of the thermal energy conversion systems, as well as monitoring using virtual instrumentation. This platform will provide students with enhanced tools of study. The platform was developed as a part of a DOED funded educational research.
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