Energy for the 21st Century: Thermodynamics Textbook Companion

Author: Donna Riley
Event Date: September 17, 2009
Speaker: Donna Riley
Speaker Affiliation: ENE visiting faculty from Smith College
Time: 3:30-4:30pm
Location: FRNY B124

Energy is a basic human need; technologies for energy conversion and use are fundamental to human survival. As energy technology evolves to meet demands for development and ecological sustainability in the 21st century, engineers need to have up-to-date skills and knowledge to meet the creative challenges our energy problems demand. Further, they need to cultivate a commitment to and passion for lifelong learning which will enable them to actively engage new developments in the field.

Current engineering thermodynamics textbooks seem to adhere to an unspoken canon, grounded in 19th-century developments of the steam engine in Europe, and subsequent fossil fuel technologies. While several texts have added updates, sidebars, and problems on more recent technologies, they do not frame their texts around what engineers need to know to innovate and lead society into a sustainable energy future.

My sabbatical project is to draft a textbook companion that would connect current textbooks with engineering knowledge and skills required for current and emerging technologies, leveraging pedagogies that foster intentional learning through hands-on and/or independent student explorations. Module topics include social and policy considerations in energy technology choices; applying critical theory to the thermodynamics canon; indigenous energy technologies; using energy density and energy cost of food to understand the links among hunger, poverty, and obesity in the US; reading the history of thermodynamics for thematic content of science; philosophical implications of the second law; and energy in everyday life.