How can we educate current students to be the most effective engineers when they graduate? Many leaders, researchers, and educators have been calling for the need to move from educating engineers in a way that reinforces that engineering is a purely technical endeavor to one that recognizes it as socio-technical. However, how does an engineering educator do this in required engineering courses? As part of an NSF-funded project, our engineering program is exploring such issues. In this paper, we present examples of how a heat transfer instructor has integrated such content. Heat transfer is a fundamental course in mechanical engineering which includes key concepts that are useful in wide range of applications. Contemporary heat transfer textbooks highlight real-world applications but often struggle to integrate societal concerns. In this paper, we will describe details of two modules, their use with students in a required senior level heat transfer class, and evaluation. Recognizing that instructors have many demands on their time, our modules are designed to be easy to use and include activities for class, homework, and projects. Instructors could choose some or all to incorporate in their heat transfer classes.
The first module is designed to be included in the design of electrical water heaters for residential applications. This topic is covered when teaching conduction and convection heat transfer. Current water heaters in the US run constantly so hot water is available 24 hours a day. Water heater are usually insulated and located inside the garage or a closet inside the house. Despite improved insulation, heat is lost by conduction within the insulation and by convection to surrounding air. The cost of heat loss due to running the water heater constantly is calculated as a class activity. A new problem changes the focus from the US to developing countries, like Lebanon, where electrical energy is not abundant. In these countries, water heaters are typically kept off and turned on half an hour prior to taking a shower. In this case, students must grapple with different constraints as they explore the feasibility of having a water heater running in a global context where electricity is not always available.
The second module is designed for use in the Heat Exchanger section of the course. This is framed around a successful student-faculty project at our university which was implemented in the Dominican Republic designed to provide affordable water heating for rural communities. In class, students are presented with a picture of the thermosiphon solar water heater and challenged to develop the model based on the heat exchanger equations learned in class. An open-ended design project involving modeling of similar heat exchangers is assigned where students use simulation software to calculate system performance and efficiency. Students can directly see the relevance of their heat transfer knowledge in a humanitarian context.
We hope that these examples might help other instructors incorporate these important themes into their heat transfer courses enabling more engineering students to include broader considerations in their engineering practice.
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