This learning object takes the user on a virtual tour of a steam plant and shows the unit operations in a power plant used to generate both heat and electricity. It includes a schematic of the plant, text descriptions, and many good-quality photographs, including some of equipment disassembled for maintenance. It happens to be a tour of the Michigan State University plant, but this is a typical steam generation facility with coal and gas-fired boilers, condensers, steam turbines, and electric generators.
The web site is not fancy, but its content is solid. A couple of phrases in the text are specific to the course for which the ?Tour? was developed, but that is a minor detraction from its general applicability in a fundamentals of thermodynamics course. This is a good basis for a short project or a lecture in an undergraduate thermodynamics course.
The learning object appears to have the following learning goals:
1) To be able to name the major unit operations involved in steam and power generation. 2) To be able to describe how each unit is constructed and how it functions. 3) To be able to explain how the units are connected. 4) To be able to describe the overall operation of a steam generation plant.
Target Student Population:
Undergraduate engineering students, primarily mechanical or chemical, in a course concerned with thermodynamics, energy balances, or power generation.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Students should have a basic engineering, chemistry, and physics vocabulary, and be familiar with the unit operations involved, although they likely have not seen real equipment. For example, terms such as ?superheat?, ?cation?, ?preheater?, and ?tube-in-shell design? are not explained. Students should have, or concurrently be developing, familiarity with the thermodynamic properties of steam.
Type of Material:
This is best described as a case study.
This site could be used as a basis for short projects or for in-class discussion. It needs to be used in conjunction with other instruction on thermodynamics since it is not a stand-alone tutorial on thermodynamics or steam generation. It would be particularly useful if time or geography prevents the class from touring an actual steam plant.
As the basis for a Writing-to-Learn exercise,
students could be asked to describe the physical and energetic transformations H2O undergoes as it proceeds through the power generation cycle.
As the basis for a short project, students could be asked to calculate the fuel costs to run a boiler at full capacity. In class, the instructor would need to provide information about heat transfer efficiency, fuel heating value, fuel costs. If given as homework, students could be required to research typical values for some or all of these parameters.
As part of a class discussion, students could be asked to review the site for homework, and then pass out schematics and ask a series of questions about the process. For example, "Why is a condenser needed after the turbine-generator?" Or, "Why is there more than one outlet for H2O from each turbine?" "Describe what a boiler looks like in real life."
No special plugins or software are required, beyond a standard web-browser. Time to load would be rather long with a modem connection, because the schematic is large. With a broadband connection, however, loading speed is acceptable.
Evaluation and Observation
This object does an excellent job of introducing the thermodynamic processes and hardware associated with the cogeneration of heat and electricity. The schematics, photographs, and text are accurate and are typical of many steam-based power generation facilities across the industrialized world. The site is significant because steam-based power plants are a common application of
thermodynamic principles, and all mechanical and chemical engineers are expected to know how they work.
None insofar as validity is concerned. However, from a significance standpoint, similar content is available in many other forms. For example, most university campuses have a steam plant that classes can tour. Also, many text books show photographs and cutaway diagrams of similar equipment.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The site provides an excellent virtual tour that can serve much the same purpose as an actual walking tour of a power generation facility. The photographs and cut-away drawings of the hardware involved in such a plant are quite instructive, especially those that show the details of the turbines and valves and those that contain labels for the various components.
Also quite useful are the several plant schematics that show the steam path and the respective positions of the various components.
The narrative that accompanies the tour is quite complete and does an excellent job of explaining the various processes that occur in such a plant. Detailed explanations of elements like the rocker arms that control the steam flow to the turbines are excellent.
The online availability is both convenient and comfortable for instructors and students alike,
especially for those campuses that do not have such a power plant available.
This is not so much a concern as a lack-of-strength. As mentioned in ?quality of content?, similar schematics, photographs, and descriptions are available in traditional textbooks and by touring an actual plant. The online availability is convenient, but does not represent a unique instructional approach. There is no reason to expect the online tour to be any more or less effective than an actual tour or a quality paper handout.
One concern is an occasional phrase that is obviously specific to the course for which this was developed, but it remains a useful resource.
Cut-away drawings of the condenser and feedwater heaters like that provided for the turbine would be very helpful.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
This virtual tour is very easy to take. Anyone with even minimal familiarity with web pages should be able to navigate through the tour with no difficulty.