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Adaptable Homework Solutions In Fluid Mechanics Using Mathcad

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Thermodynamics, Fluids, and Heat Transfer II

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.158.1 - 14.158.15

Permanent URL

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Paper Authors


Laura L. Pauley Pennsylvania State University

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Laura L. Pauley, Arthur L. Glenn Professor of Engineering Education and professor of mechanical engineering, joined the The Pennsylvania State University faculty in 1988. From 2000 to 2007, she served as the Professor-in-Charge of Undergraduate Programs in Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering. In 2003, Laura received the Penn State Undergraduate Program Leadership Award. Dr. Pauley teaches courses in the thermal sciences and conducts research in computational fluid mechanics and engineering education. She received degrees in mechanical engineering from University of Illinois (B.S. in 1984) and Stanford University (M.S. in 1985 and Ph.D. in 1988). She can be contacted at .

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

Adaptable Homework Solutions in Fluid Mechanics Using Mathcad


One challenge in teaching undergraduate courses is to develop new homework and exam problems each semester. Problems from the textbook are often not used more than one or two semesters because students find the solutions posted online or get solutions from a fellow student.

This paper describes the development of homework problems and solutions for an undergraduate fluid mechanics course using Mathcad. Mathcad is well suited for this purpose since publication quality output is generated with equations in a publication-style format, embedded figures, and graphs. Mathcad also includes parameter dimensions in the calculations. Using the Mathcad-generated homework problems allows an instructor to easily create modified homework problems each semester. Assigning modified homework problems each semester encourages students to work on the assignment instead of seeking a previously posted solution. The Mathcad-generated problems also allow the instructor to easily modify problems for use on exams.

Mathcad-solved problems have been incorporated into many engineering textbooks and homework probems1,2. The Mathcad web site provides a list of Mathcad textbooks and engineering textbooks using Mathcad for problem solving3. In many texts, Mathcad is used as a problem solving tool by students for more advanced problems. Student assignments and projects using Mathcad have also been reported4. Example problems include solutions of ODE’s, solutions of set of linear equations, and iterative solutions. The present paper, however, demonstrates the use of Mathcad by the instructor to generate homework problems and solutions that can be easily revised.

Instructor Problem Solutions

Four adaptable homework problems for an undergraduate fluid mechanics course have been developed and are included in the Appendix. The Mathcad files can be sent to instructors by email request to the author.

The first page of many of the Mathcad files is the “instructor work space”. The original problem statement is given at the top of the page. Problem parameters that can be varied are then listed in blue highlighted areas. On the “instructor work space”, the instructor can add reminders and notes about the problem. To assist the instructor, the input section of the worksheet includes a range of typical values that would be assigned for the problem. Some critical variables might also be calculated in the “instructor work space” to assure that the problem is defined as intended. For example, pipe flow and boundary layer flow problems

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