Embedding physics into technology: Infrared thermography and building inspection as a teaching tool-a new participated strategy approach to the physics of heat transfer and energy saving for professional schools

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We describe an inquiry-based path about heat conduction as part of a multidisciplinary project on energy saving in a professional school in a province close to Milan, Italy. The teaching-learning process dealt with heat losses in buildings detected with a thermal camera. Three consecutive activities were implemented: direct detection by the students of heat leakages due to thermal bridges in the school structure; simple standard technology laboratory activities on heat transfer, planned and performed by the students themselves; and finally a series of guided laboratory experiences with a thermal camera, to develop and clarify the previous lab activities on thermal conductivity. Key motivations of the project were creating a link between the study of thermodynamics and its application to the "real" world; increasing students' motivation by using an Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE) approach; and studying if and how the "infusion" of a cutting-edge, and therefore science-attracting, technology (thermography) might foster the teaching-learning process, thus becoming a concrete cognitive tool promoting the students' approach to the scientific methodology.