The air-breathing Brayton cycle is widespread throughout power generation and propulsion systems, making it a staple in every mechanical or aerospace engineering student’s repertoire. Students are typically introduced to cycle analysis in a thermodynamics course and may see more in-depth coverage of gas turbines in advanced technical elective courses. In the Air-Breathing Propulsion course at The Ohio State University, students perform thermodynamic analysis on Brayton cycle engines among other topics. Pedagogy research has shown active learning to be a potent tool for enhancing student learning, and it was decided to incorporate a new active learning module into the existing course. For the module to be successful, students must achieve the learning objectives, positively accept the experience, and the module must have a minimal impact on the course structure. One lecture and one homework assignment were devoted to the use of this tool to allow students to explore gas turbine cycle analysis. A new tool, Brayton Cycle Compare & Solve, has been developed for this module. The tool can accurately perform thermodynamic design point analysis of three types of Brayton cycle engines and allow users to graphically compare the results of their analyses.

This study is done to present the tool and active learning experience to educators, capture the effectiveness of the tool in an educational setting, and determine whether students enjoy the new tool. The program is evaluated through an Institutional Review Board approved study consisting of two parts. First, students participate in a survey based on the Student Response to Instruction Practices tool to determine how the students react to and accept the active learning experience. Second, a detailed analysis of their homework responses is conducted to determine the extent to which they satisfied the learning objectives. Students unanimously felt that the learning experience with Brayton Cycle Compare & Solve is a valuable addition to the course, and homework analysis shows that their understanding of Brayton cycle analysis improved.

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