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A Course In Flow Visualization: The Art And Physics Of Fluid Flow

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

A Potpoturri of Innovations in Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.29.1 - 9.29.11



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

A Course in Flow Visualization: the Art and Physics of Fluid Flow

Jean Hertzberg, Alex Sweetman

Dept. Mechanical Engineering/ Dept. Fine Arts University of Colorado Boulder CO 80309


In Spring 2003, a new experimental course on flow visualization was offered to a mixed class of Fine Arts Photography and Engineering students. Course content included fluid flow physics, history of photography with respect to the relationship of science and art, as well as flow visualization and photography techniques. Issues such as “What makes an image art? What makes an image scientific?” were addressed. The class focused on studio/laboratory experiences for mixed teams of students. A range of fluids apparatus were made available, and students also created novel flows. Writeups were required for each image (to the art students’ shock). Student work was evaluated for both artistic and scientific merit.

This course represents a radical departure from normal engineering curricula; typically all fine arts studio courses are specifically excluded. However, the course proved to be very successful in attracting both graduate and undergraduate students, engineering women in particular. One outcome of the course is the recognition by students of the beauty of fluid physics that surrounds us each day, leading to motivation for life-long learning.


The growing disconnect between engineers and the general public has been a topic for recent discussion and concern. On one side, we can work to educate the public about engineering, and on the other, we can educate our students to relate their studies to a greater world. A diverse student population is important in this context. Typical engineering curricula place heavy emphasis on science and engineering topics. A small dose of humanities and social science are also required, but there is little overlap of concepts. Similarly, humanities and fine arts students have some science ‘core’ requirements to fulfill; these are particularly important given the increasing role of technology in society, but again, close coupling of concepts are not required. As a result, ‘humanistic engineering’ programs which integrate engineering and humanities topics are being examined1. As a result of such a discussion at the University of Colorado, Boulder, that began in 2001 on ‘Technology and Culture’2, faculty from engineering and from the humanities, including fine arts, were encouraged to propose joint courses. The present authors (Hertzberg and Sweetman) won a small award to pilot a laboratory/studio course on “Flow Visualization: the Physics and Art of Fluid Flow,” which was taught in Spring 2003. Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering

Hertzberg, J. (2004, June), A Course In Flow Visualization: The Art And Physics Of Fluid Flow Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12925

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