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Abstract Title: The Partial Derivative Machine
Abstract: Research has shown that students struggle to understand the use of partial derivatives in thermodynamics. We have designed an apparatus, which we have called a Partial Derivative Machine, that serves as a mechanical analogue of a thermodynamic system. Using this device, students have a tangible way to wrestle with issues related to partial derivatives and thermodynamics, such as which variables are held fixed, how many variables are independent, and how energy can be added to a system. In this paper, we present a description of the apparatus, an introduction to the associated activities, and an overview of how this apparatus can be connected to thermodynamic systems.

*Supported by NSF DUE 1023120
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Grant Sherer
Department of Physics
301 Weniger Hall
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331-6507
Phone: (541) 737-1695
and Co-Presenter(s)
David Roundy, Mary Bridget Kustusch, and Corinne A. Manogue