The motivation for a fresh look at heat transfer education, both in content and in methodology, is generated by a number of trends in engineering practice. These include the increasing demand for engineers with interdisciplinary skills, rapid integration of technology, emergence of computerized and interactive problem-solving tools, shortening time of concept-to-market, availability of new technologies, and an increasing number of new or redesigned products and processes in which heat transfer plays a part. Examination of heat transfer education in this context can be aided by considering the changes, both qualitatively and quantitatively, in the student, educator, and researcher populations, employment opportunities, in the needs of corporations, government, industry, and universities, and in the relevant technical problems and issues of the day.
Such an overview provides the necessary background for charting a response to the difficult question of how to maintain excellence and continuity in heat transfer education in the face of rapid, widespread, and complex changes. The present paper addresses how to make heat transfer education more relevant and stimulating. This paper represents a written summary of a 1996 panel discussion at the 1996 International Mechanical Engineering Conference and Exhibition (IMECE) of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in Atlanta, Georgia, on “Heat Transfer Education: Keeping it Relevant and Vibrant,” with significant expansion and amplification by the authors and the panelists in the 1997–98 period.
The consensus of the participants is that the steps necessary to ensure the desired outcome in heat transfer education should include: (1) a better understanding of the interaction between the student, course content, and market needs; (2) an appreciation of the need in multidisciplinary industrial environments for engineers trained with a broad background; (3) a revision of the introductory heat transfer course to incorporate illustrative and insightful industrial examples and case studies reducible to order-of-magnitude analyses; (4) a reinforcement of real-world problem-solving abilities in students by introducing them to examples that emphasize multidisciplinary issues in modern thermal management problems; and finally (5) industrial collaboration that would provide the educator with meaningful thermal management case studies (and possible funding), the student with an appreciation of industrial practices, and the industrial sponsor with access to academia for assistance in problem solving. Also suggested is an effective regular review program to provide assessment, feedback, and suggestions for quality control to interested institutions on their teaching methodology and materials.