Conserving Energy in Physics and Society: Creating an Integrated Model of Energy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

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The second law of thermodynamics is typically not a central focus either in introductory university physics textbooks or in national standards for secondary education. However, the second law is a key part of a strong conceptual model of energy, especially for connecting energy conservation to energy degradation and the irreversibility of processes. We are developing a conceptual model of the second law as it relates to energy, with the goal of creating models and representations that link energy, the second law, and entropy in a meaningful way for learners analyzing real-life energy scenarios. We expect this model to help learners better understand how their everyday experiences relate to formal physics analyses. Our goal is to develop tools for use with elementary and secondary teachers and secondary and university students.