Christopher Adams (Adams State College, USA)
In many upper-divisional thermodynamics courses, a great deal of time is dedicated to P-V diagrams, heat cycles, and heat engines. However, it is often difficult for students to make concrete connections between the P-V diagrams drawn in class with the heat cycles and heat engines that utilize them. To address this, we developed a four-week open-ended inquiry-based lab aimed at addressing a number of common misconceptions. The students were given two weeks to assemble and troubleshoot a homebuilt Stirling engine; the design was inspired by a number of hobbyist projects readily available on the internet. The remaining time was used to develop several ways to test the efficiency of their engine. After finishing the laboratory work, students were responsible for writing a formal lab report characterizing the success of their project.