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A Computer Based Textbook For Introductory Fluid Mechanics

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.3.1 - 3.3.21



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Paper Authors

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James A. Liggett

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David A. Caughey

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2520

A Computer-based Textbook for Introductory Fluid Mechanics

David A. Caughey and James A. Liggett Cornell University


An interactive textbook that uses the power of the personal computer to teach introductory fluid mechanics has been developed by the authors. This mode of presentation integrates hypertext navigational and search features, the presentation of videos and animations to illustrate phenomena and concepts, and computation to allow the presentation of results for a variety of parameter values and the solution of nonlinear problems without the tedium of table look-up or iteration on the part of the student. The authors' experience using an early version of the book to teach junior-level students in mechanical engineering and in civil and environmental engineering indicates that the students appreciate the increased understanding that comes with dynamic figures, the easy access to data, the ability to locate quickly definitions and specific material, and, most of all, the computational facilities.

1. Introduction

Fluid mechanics is an engineering science of fundamental importance to most branches of engineering, including aerospace, chemical, civil, environmental, and mechanical engineering, as well as to some aspects of electrical engineering and materials engineering. Fluid mechanics typically is taught to engineering students in curricula in the above fields, starting with one or more courses in the junior year. In spite of the fact that we spend our lives surrounded by, and immersed in, fluids, this course is considered difficult by most students -- largely because of the abstract nature of the formulations of many problems in fluid mechanics, for which the typical student has not developed an intuitive feel, and the frequency with which nonlinearity is a factor in the formulation of even the most common engineering problems.

The authors have developed a textbook3 that uses the power of the personal computer to try to address issues of visualization of phenomena, the connection between fluids phenomena and their mathematical description, and the inherent difficulty of meaningful computation. The book is designed as a stand-alone text, not as a supplement to an existing text. Although a paper version will be available to accompany the electronic form, the book is designed to be read on a computer, where it integrates hypertext features, animations and video sequences that illustrate kinematic and dynamic phenomena, graphics to present data dynamically, and computational facilities for the solution of complex problems without the tedium associated with classical (graphical or tabular iterative) methods.

Liggett, J. A., & Caughey, D. A. (1998, June), A Computer Based Textbook For Introductory Fluid Mechanics Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/1-2--6977

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