Department of Mechanical Engineering
Kenneth E. Goodson
Heat transfer instruction has experienced importance changes over the past two decades with the increasing relevance of new disciplines of science, such as solid state physics, and the importance of small lengthscales. The mechanical engineering undergraduate experience needs to evolve in response to these changes. It is also critical that we help highschool students - particularly those from underpriviledged communities - appreciate the opportunities and impact that are available through the study of energy conversion and heat transfer.
Stanford's Microscale Heat Transfer Laboratory has a long tradition of teaching innovation. In the late 1990's we developed the Microscale Thermosciences Teaching Laboratory (MTTL), which allows undergraduates to visualize, electrically probe and heat, and perform electrical-resistance and thermocouple thermometry on microdevices fabricated at the Stanford Nanofabrication Facility and at local companies. At present we are leveraging this facility to develop a thermoelectrics design competition, which allows undergraduaute students to design and study the conversion efficiency of a waste heat recovery system that resembles those we are developing for vehicles. This thermoelectrics competition is linked to our NSF-DOE sponsored project on the same topic, which is also sponsoring outreach activities by graduate students at targeted highschools in East Palo Alto.
We are also investigating the learning processes used by undergraduate students in our heat transfer curriculum. This project investigates differences between experts and novices in solving conceptual problems in heat transfer. One goal is to identify characteristics of expertise through analysis of written responses to questions based on everyday situations by eight graduate students studying in the field of heat transfer. Identifying characteristics of expertise allows relative comparison to responses by novices, seventy-six undergraduate students enrolled in their first course on heat transfer. Novice responses were collected at different points throughout the undergraduate heat transfer course. This provided insight into changes in level of expertise that occur during the course and learning progressions in heat transfer.