Creating Visual Learning from Mathematical Teachings in Thermodynamics

Gary R. Bement, Chemical Engineering, Bucknell University, 701 Moore Ave C2927, Lewisburg, PA 17837

It has been shown that when visual and mathematical learning techniques are combined, students retain more detail of the lessons taught. Many students, even after learning the mathematics of the Carnot cycle, will state that engine efficiency can reach 100% in real life applications. This work aims to present a visual representation of the Carnot cycle using attainable temperatures. The graphics program will confirm what the mathematics would state: That 100% efficiency is not capable in real life situations even when using an ideal engine model. The graphical information is more qualitative, showing the actions of a piston-molecule model and also a Carnot efficiency graph. Through the mathematical lessons in Carnot efficiency and the use of the prepared interactive program, the amount of retained knowledge should increase. Tests will be given to a thermodynamics class right after the mathematics are presented, at later dates before and after interactive program has been used, and finally at a further time to see if a statistically significant increase in retention occurred. If the research shows that student retention increases when visual and mathematical techniques are used, the program will be implemented in thermodynamics courses at Bucknell University.