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An equation-solving program was developed by the author and integrated into the Energy Systems Laboratory course at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. The equation solver is unique in that it has built-in functions for thermodynamic and transport properties of many fluids. The program also provides engineering plots and both spline and curve fitting capability, which are needed in this laboratory course. Students use the program to analyze their experimental data, eliminating the need for hand calculations and "canned" analysis programs provided by the instructor.

An analysis of experimental data should always be accompanied by an uncertainty analysis of the calculated quantities. However, the computational effort required to prepare a thorough uncertainty analysis for the quantities of interest in this laboratory is significant and, consequently, inclusion of error analyses in the laboratory reports has not been enforced. To address this problem, the equation solver was modified to include the ability to provide uncertainty analysis.

This paper describes the cooling tower experiment and indicates the role the equation-solving program now plays in reducing the computational effort required to do the data and uncertainty analyses. The uncertainty analysis was particularly important in the cooling tower experiment because the observed errors in the mass and energy balances were large. The cause for the errors was identified by the uncertainty analysis.

Units: Dual