Award Date

May 2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering (MSE)

Department

Mechanical Engineering

First Committee Member

Robert F. Boehm

Second Committee Member

Yi-Tung Chen

Third Committee Member

Hui Zhao

Fourth Committee Member

Brendan Morris

Number of Pages

74

Abstract

Educating future engineers will be handled differently as this modern society has various methods of doing so and a plethora of knowledge to pursue. The availability of computers and internet has changed many things. A subject that is relevant in today’s world but not common to most people and some engineers is solar energy. As part of a grant from the National Science Foundation that was awarded to Louisiana State University (LSU), Florida State University (FSU), and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), the UNLV Center for Energy Research partnered with them to create solar application based learning modules.

Two solar water heating systems have been constructed to operate in the Las Vegas climate, specifically, a system with an evacuated tube collector and another with a flat plate collector. Another experiment that characterizes the performance of four different photovoltaic panels has been repurposed to our needs. Finally, an Amonix concentrating photovoltaic system that is a part of the Center for Energy Research at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas is part of our effort. The purpose of these three types of experiments is to provide data in a manner like students would receive conducting an experiment in a laboratory, but it will be available to them remotely over the internet. This ability allows others to learn and analyze information from a system that most do not have physical access to. In addition to the mentioned systems future ones can be added, for example, a concentrating solar thermal system like a solar oven, solar dish, or parabolic trough. When this capability is combined with the related ones being developed at LSU and FSU, where each school is developing unique experiments, it will make a variety of remote experiences available.

Another aspect is that this remote laboratory capability gives a student an exploratory mindset that there is more out there than what is available in laboratories on campus/available to them in-person. The systems have data logging so there is constant recording and availability to prospective users, which makes this laboratory quite robust. Its data will be available online along with resources on the system, subject, and analysis. This will be in a module type compilation, for educational purposes, because it was established as a part of the aforementioned partnership with other universities to provide materials on a website. Assistance can be sought out by prospective users who are having trouble with the subject matter, and if users want to try something different on the systems, they could request that.

As part of the changing educational environment, it will be discussed how this approach with possible other modules would affect engineering education. The effectiveness of this education and experimentation will take time to evaluate, and it will be outlined here how this can be characterized. Recommendations for integrating these types of experiments and capabilities into education will be proposed and analyzed.

Keywords

Distance Learning; Learning; Renewable; Solar Energy; Sustainability; Teaching Methods

Disciplines

Education | Engineering | Oil, Gas, and Energy

Language

English


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