AN OPEN-ENDED DESIGN-BASED LAB EXERCISE FOR A FIRST THERMOFLUIDS COURSE
AbstractThe Thermo-Fluid Engineering I course provides all first-semester second-year engineering students at Dalhousie University with a basic introduction to thermodynamics and fluid mechanics. In the past three years, we have used a combination of six traditional laboratory exercises and a short four-week design project to provide students with hands-on learning experiences in this course. In general, these projects have been well-received by students as a welcome break from the many abstract theoretical concepts that are normally associated with introductory thermodynamics. However, two of the continuing challenges with these projects have been the students’ limited engineering design experience and the availability of time to perform a design project. To address these challenges, in the fall 2015 offering of Thermo-Fluid Engineering I, the four-week design project was replaced by an open-ended design-based lab exercise.
The open-ended lab exercise required groups of students to develop specific laboratory experiments related to thermodynamics and fluid dynamics, given a limited quantity of resources. While the focus shifted away from a traditional short design project, the open-ended lab exercise continues to allow students to develop their creative thinking, critical analysis, hands-on, communication, and team work skills, which was the primary purpose of the short design projects in the first place.