Writing About Thermodynamics
2003 Annual Conference Proceedings
This paper describes an optional writing assignment in thermodynamics initiated several years ago by the first author in two undergraduate engineering courses. Essay topics were not assigned but were chosen by students from one of two general categories: making a connection between thermodynamics and the student's major discipline (e.g., Civil Engineering) or focusing on an environmental issue involving thermodynamics (e.g., energy). Examples of the diverse topics selected for essays are given
... r essays are given together with some general observations on the writings. There are benefits to this exercise for both students and teachers and these are briefly discussed. Other observations, including comments on the essays, were included in an e-mail message sent to students. The message follows. Dear Thermo Students- The essays-all 67-have been graded both by myself and Matthew Rice. I used the average of the two and stapled copies together. The essays will be returned to you in class on Friday. Overall, the topics chosen were appropriate as well as interesting. They included such areas as thermal pollution, carbon dioxide production and global warming, manufacturing, hydrogen-powered vehicles, plasma and ion propulsion systems for space travel, thermal regulation of the human body, the thermodynamics of thermals, fuel cells, hydroelectric power production, marine steam and diesel propulsion, wind power, hybrid engine technology, drilling for oil in Alaska, space shuttle propulsion, the role of oceans in climate, space vehicle heating in reentry, thermodynamics of metabolism, Scramjet engines, global warming, superconducting motors, nuclear power and the environment, heat transfer in neonates, alternative fuel solutions the Kyoto Protocol, power turbines, ramjet propulsion, snow ski manufacture, bus transportation and diesel fuels, ocean thermal energy conversion, nitrogen oxide emissions, energy-based design methods, gas turbine engines in aircraft, the Cassini Space Probe, fluid mechanics and thermodynamics, and sensor-driven fire models. All interesting topics with connections to thermodynamics in one way or another.