Tutor definition: In this project, we are creating a series of example-tracing tutors that help students design and optimize thermodynamic cycles, such as the Rankine cycle used in power plants. Eventually, the system will be extended so that it engages students in natural language dialogue about thermodynamics design. The example-tracing tutors will form the backbone of the system.

Interface example from the tutor:

History: So far, we have created two example-tracing tutors, which were used in an evaluation study involving approximately 100 mechanical engineering sophomores enrolled in a thermodynamics course.

How the interface was built and how the CTAT tools were used to build the tutor: We hooked up a thermodynamics simulator, CylePad, developed at Northwestern University by Ken Forbus and his colleagues. It communicates over sockets with the Behavior Recorder. (Socket communication is possible with CTAT. Contact us if you would like more information on connecting a simulator or other program to CTAT.)

What distinctive features this tutor has that not all tutors have: The system provides tutoring within an external problem-solving environment (i.e., CyclePad) rather a standard Student Interface.

How interface utilizes scaffolding (make easier for learners by make steps explicit for students instead of implicit) & differ from standard textbook notation: The CyclePad simulator lets students build thermodynamic cycles from basic components and calculates the values of thermodynamic parameters within the cycle. It also lets students do sensitivity analyses, showing how for example the cycle efficiency depends on other parameters. The tutors assist students in building the cycle and optimizing it.


For more information about this project, please contact: Carolyn Pennstein Rosé, Assistant Professor, Language Technologies Institute and Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University.