For the past six years the Personal Engineering Platform (PEP) has been used by students in the ME Heat and Mass Transfer course at Virginia Tech to perform hands-on workshops. The PEP is a data acquisition system (DAQ) with an array of sensors and simple equipment designed for each student to perform workshops at home, in the same format as standard homework problems. The system uses a small microcomputer capable of reading at least 3 channels of heat flux sensor and temperature data with a real time display. The total cost is low enough ($200) to justify each student having their own system. There are currently fourteen workshops available covering fundamental topics in conduction, convection, and radiation. The PEP gives each individual student exploratory laboratory experiences to understand real world thermal events outside the confines and expense of the usual University lab. Specific examples are demonstrated and discussed.

To quantify the educational benefits of this program, feedback was obtained from student performance on concept questions and problem solutions, as well as student surveys. At this point over one thousand students have used the system with statistically significant improvement in performance and motivation. It’s been shown to excite the students for further work on thermal design projects and graduate school.

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