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Niles, Donald E. (ed.) / The Wisconsin engineer
Volume 48, Number 3 (November 1943)

Initiation articles for Eta Kappa Nu,   pp. 28-30

Page 28

Initiation Articles for
                             ETA KAPPA NU
                                             by a Couple of E.E.'s
Necessity of Thermodynamic Labs
To the E.E. Student
                 by MERVAL OLESON
O NE of the big difficulties which college trained men
    usually encounter upon their initial entrance into the
industrial world is lack of practical experience. A man
may have done very well scholastically in college, but yet
when he comes to take a position in industry, there is a
period over which he must still learn. He must learn to
work with his hands, and he must learn to apply the
knowledge which he gained from books and lectures to
actual practical cases. In order to make this transitional
period easier and shorter, most colleges have included in
their required curriculum several laboratory courses
where the student works and experiments with the equip-
ment he has studied in the classroom, and a few colleges
even send their undergraduate students out into factories
to work as part of their training. However, this pro-
cedure materially lengthens the time required for the
college education, and so here at University of Wiscon-
sin we use the laboratory courses. Now, while these lab-
oratory courses are not quite as effective as sending the
men to industrial plants, they still serve the purpose of
acquainting the student with the equipment, and training
him to work in close cooperation with other men on the
problems encountered.
  In the electrical engineering curriculum, we have a total
of nine required laboratory courses which cover, besides
electricity, the fields of chemistry, heat engineering, phys-
ics, and an optional surveying course. Neglecting electri-
cal labs, the heat engineering labs take up more credits
than any of the rest, which is logical, since the problem
of power and heat is an important one to the electrical
engineer who plans to go into power work. Also since it
is an established fact that many of the engineers who
graduate in one field eventually end up in another, it is
best for him to have a working knowledge of all the
diverse fields of engineering. (To quote an example, Pro-
fessor G. L. Larson of the mechanical engineering faculty
graduated from college as an electrical engineer, and is
now teaching thermodynamics.) Other graduates of engi-
neering colleges have, after a few years, come into posi-
tions where they are in supervision of not only electrical
equipment, but also power plants and heat-power ma-
chines. Now, while they may not be directly in charge of
the maintenance and operation of this equipment, it is
still quite essential for them to know the problems in-
volved, so that they can intelligently criticize and aid the
men who are doing this. Also, we have the important
considerations of mechanical power involved in the design
and manufacture of most all types of electrical generators,
especially those in the higher power ranges. The size of
the heat engine installations are an important factor in
the economic problems of a power station, which is after
all the problem of the electrical engineer.
  It seems then, that we may consider the courses in ther-
modynamics and their associated labs an essential part of
our electrical engineering education, so let us see spe-
cifically what they consist of. The first course of this
nature which the E.E. student comes in contact with is
M.E. 63 where he learns the elements of the gas and
vapor cycles and their corresponding engines. Then in
M.E. 64 he studies the different types of engines in con-
siderable more detail, and it is here that he has the first
thermodynamics lab, M.E. 74. The experiments of M.E.
74 are designed to illustrate and fix the information of
the classroom in his mind as practical material. It might
be interesting and informative in this vein to run over
some of these experiments: (I ) Pressure and vacuum
gages. The importance of pressures in heat engine work
need hardly be elaborated on; this experiment teaches the
construction and operation of gages of the type used for
these measurements. (2) Engine indicators. In determin-
ing heat engine efficiencies and operating characteristics
it is necessary to know the actual cycle of the engine, and
engine indicators are used for this. (3) Steam calorime-
ters. The amount of water in steam has a very important
effect especially on turbines, and a steam calorimeter is
used to find the per-cent of water in a steam supply.
(4) Engine tests for various engines. Several experiments
are devoted to making tests of different types of steam
engines, adjusting them for efficient operation, and test-
ing various boilers which are used in conjunction with the
  The previous experiments teaching the proper use and
operation of measuring devices and instruments are really
all leading up to the testing of engines. These tests serve
to actually make the material learned in the classroom
seem real instead of merely abstract theory and compu-
tations. They also serve as a basis for working with these
engines in the factory, so that the graduate engineer is not
unfamiliar with the practical aspects of his job when he
takes a position in industry.
  Now, in order to form a more accurate opinion of the
course itself, we might take note of some comments by
undergraduate students and faculty members. The con-
sensus of opinion among the students who have taken the
course or are taking it now seems to be that the course is
really a necessary addition to their curriculum, but they
do feel that too much is required of them for the credits
                  (turn to page 30 please)

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