ENGRD221: Engineering Thermodynamics
ABET QUALIFYING DOCUMENTS
Engineering Thermodynamics, ENGRD 221, is intended to be a comprehensive introduction to
thermodynamics for engineering sophomores. It is designed as a course that will give
students a necessary foundation for a comprehensive understanding of energy and other
engineering systems. Energy systems are fundamental not only in energy production but
in many other important aspects of engineering including the manufacturing of materials.
ENGRD 221 introduces students to real world energy systems and systematically develops
analysis techniques for such systems. A rigorously organized problem solution process
is emphasized. As virtually every subsequent mechanical and aerospace engineering
course at Cornell University has some working knowledge of thermodynamics and its
applications as a prerequisite, this course is structured so that each student
can be given the opportunity to obtain the necessary foundation.
The following three major aspects of this course are briefly discussed next:
The main objectives of ENGRD 221 are divided in three groups: (a) understanding the basic thermodynamic
principles, (b) developing the skills to perform the analysis and design of thermodynamic systems and finally
(c) developing the skills to accurately articulate thermodynamic issues
using proper thermodynamic concepts and technical language.
As ENGRD 221 is a fundamental required course in many subsequent engineering (and in particular
ME & AE) courses, a two-step assessment process has been instituted.
The first assessment is to determine whether the students have successfully mastered the essential parts of the
syllabus outlined here.
This concurrent assessment was accomplished with a proper combination of 2 comprehensive Prelim exams (each two-hours long),
one final exam (2 1/2 hours long), 12 fully graded
and commented comprehensive
homeworks (each of approximately 6 problems) and also direct assessment through participation and interactions in lectures,
weekly recitations & office hours and through
a questions & answers section posted weekly on the course web site.
The various course assignments were selected such that they allow training and subsequent testing of the thermodynamic
thermodynamic applications as well as of the development of thermodynamic articulation. The homeworks and exam problems consisted from
short questions that the students should be able to respond with little or no effort, to long problems requiring
analysis skills and extensive use of thermodynamic properties, to problems requiring ability to perform mathematical
manipulations of thermodynamic functions and finally to problems requiring to clearly state
in thermodynamic language principles of
energy, equilibrium, etc. To allow direct feedback from the students as to their own assessment of fulfilling the
course objectives, a course improvement questionnaire listed below was submitted to the class.
To access the ability of the students to proceed in other engineering courses that require some level of thermodynamics,
a subsequent assessment process is also implemented. This requires the students to answer questionnaires at
junior and senior ME & AE classes that test
their thermodynamics background and knowledge in prerequisite material that varies in depth and emphasis
for each upper level course. The implementation of such subsequent surveys will depend on the course and instructor, however,
questionnaire for subsequent
assessment of ENGRD 221 is listed below.
Annual Course Improvement Assessment
Using the assessment
criteria described earlier,
considering the student responses to the course improvement survey
instructor's and teaching assistants' evaluation of the course, a summary of the course evaluation (fall 2004)
is provided below
including a preliminary plan for
course improvement to be implemented in the Fall of 2005.
The responses from the class are summarized below:
- Overall the course
was very well received by the majority of the students. A common
response from the class was that they all learned significantly more than they were expecting to learn from
a single introduction to thermodynamics class.
- The only complain from several students was that the course
was very demanding and possibly worth 4 credits.
- The class was well attended, the students always highly motivated
and the majority of the class found the subject of
thermodynamics both practical and important to the fundamentals of engineering.
- More than 3 weeks of the course covered for the first time
equilibrium and kinetics. Examples were discussed from various engineering areas including chemical reactions,
materials development and other. Contrary to what I was told to expect, the students seem to both appreciate
theoretical concepts and able to connect with important applications.
- The class seems not to appreciate theoretical developments related to
Carnot cycles, etc. but they had all a clear understanding of the relation of the
second law of thermodynamics and efficiency of thermal cycles. This clearly indicates an area that
a restructuring of the lectures is needed.
- The recitations were found not to always be helpful.
The students will demand solutions to the HW problems (and not a review of the lectures or
solving/discussing other key problems) and that is a difficult
proposition to be considered in a 50 minutes recitation.
- The students and instructor office hours were always
very well attended. Weekend office hours were found to be very useful. Unfortunately, every TA found it
difficult to attend to the needs of individual students with the allocated time.
- The students found the use of slides and computer
presentations for complex systems useful in allowing them to connect the theoretical and practical aspects
of the course. The lectures will not always finish with an example problem as the instructor had
advocated in the beginning of the course.
- The 2 mid-term exams and the final exam were found to be
in spirit with the homeworks, very comprehensive and good indicators of the students'
understanding of the course material. The class appreciated receiving typed solutions to each HW and exam,
typed notes of all recitations and a list of each topic covered in each lecture. The class
appreciated receiving corrected
HWs and exams within two-days from the date that they were submitted. The role of a grader was very important to
allow this efficient handling of HWs and exams.
In response to these reviews, the following action plans are implemented in the Fall of 2005.
- The overall structure and style of the course will remain as is. It
served very well the students and it has been a very satisfying experience to the instructor and TAs.
- In a weekly meeting with the TAs, we identify all problems
in the homework that students had difficulties with and we address these problems in the coming lectures, recitations
and the weekly Questions & Answers handout. In addition, the instructor reviews all cummulative grades of the class
and if necessary initiates meetings with students that may need special attention.
- To create uniformity of all recitations, the solution of one
major problem will be
discussed in all of them (including all related theory). This problem will be given to the students as
part of their HW set for that week. This procedure will allow the students to work on the problem before the
- The presentation of the 2nd law will be given with less
discussion about cycles and more about irreversibilities, randomness, etc. Similar
modifications will be applied to the presentation of `exergy'. These simplifications will allow
the course to concentrate on more modern and technologically interesting topics.
- The kinetics part of the course will increase by one to two
lectures to bring specific important application examples. Course notes will be delivered to cover these
- With course notes and visual aids now in place, each lecture can now
be timed effectively so indeed it finishes with an example summarizing the lecture.
- Significant training of the TAs is needed. It is difficult to
expect teaching assistants to provide help on topics of kinetics and equilibrium when
they have never had these topics in their undergraduate or graduate curriculum.
The TAs will now become aware of the need to familiarize themselves with these
topics very early in the course.
- The instructor will review the performance of all TAs in their
recitation and office hours and provide feedback to them based on the student comments as well
as based on the mid-term TA evaluation forms.
- The Questions & Answers weekly handout is now merged with the Recitation
handout. This merger may increase the number of students taking advantage of this material on a regular basis.
- To accommodate the large number of students in office hours during the weekend,
the regular TAs will be assisted by an undergraduate student who took the course last year.
- The changes discussed here are implemented this Fall (2005) and will be revisited
at the end of the semester based on the collected student course evaluation forms.