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Centrifugal Pump Design, Fabrication And Characterization: A Project Driven Freshman Experience

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

FPD10 - Freshman Engineering Introduction to Design

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.281.1 - 13.281.17



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Paper Authors


Michael Swanbom

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Dr. Mike Swanbom received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from LeTourneau University in 2002, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Louisiana Tech University in 2007. His interests include Trenchless Technology and Robotics. He is active in developing online educational tools for instruction of engineering fundamentals. He has been closely involved with the development of innovative project-based curriculum at the freshman and sophomore levels at Louisiana Tech University.

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David Hall Louisiana Tech University

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David Hall is the James F. Naylor, Jr. Endowed Professor and the Program Chair for Mechanical Engineering at Louisiana Tech University. He received his B.S. from Louisiana Tech and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Georgia Tech. His research interests include trenchless technology and engineering education.

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Kelly Crittenden Louisiana Tech University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Kelly Crittenden received his BS and PhD in BioMedical Engineering from Louisiana Tech University in 1996 and 2001 respectively. He is often involved in multidisciplinary work at Louisiana Tech, either through the Integrated Engineering Curriculum or through the IMPaCT (Innovation through Multidisciplinary Projects and Collaborative Teams) program. He is also very involved in STEM education at both the pre-college and college levels.

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

Centrifugal Pump Design, Fabrication and Characterization: A Project-Driven Freshman Experience


Students beginning the first year of an engineering program generally have limited experience with the tools engineers can harness to solve problems. Teaching students how to use problem solving tools at the point when they fully appreciate the nature of a problem is a powerful method of instruction. Real problems do not present themselves in response to the existence of a tool; rather, tools are developed to assist in solving existing problems.

A project centered around a centrifugal pump has been developed that is effective in impressing upon freshmen the need for learning analytical tools commonly used in engineering. Approximately 350 first term freshmen work in groups of two to design and fabricate centrifugal pumps that they then characterize. The project is quite sustainable, as the cost of materials per pump is only a few dollars. The freshman students participate on an individual basis in a broad range of activities that enhance their appreciation of the importance of engineering tools and analysis.

Students design their pump using solid modeling software, giving them experience with part modeling and assemblies. The designs are also fabricated by the students using milling machines and rapid prototyping. The parts are assembled, yielding a working pump. Each student develops a pump curve by measuring flowrate versus head and applying plotting and regression techniques in a spreadsheet. Students also measure voltage and current supplied to the pump motor to characterize pump efficiency. This gives them a practical feel for conservation of energy and deeper understanding of electrical power.

This paper describes our experiences with implementing this project in a college-wide freshman curriculum and includes student survey data regarding the effectiveness of the project. This project is a part of a larger program designed to impart rich, hands-on experiences to students to solidify their understanding and retention of engineering concepts. The program is being developed with funding from the National Science Foundation. The centrifugal pumps described here are used in a project in a subsequent course in which students develop a salinity- and temperature-controlled fish tank.


There is a proverb that is attributed alternately to the Chinese and to Native Americans that says “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” Educators in engineering who are forward-thinking have realized for a long time that when passive, lecture-based instruction is replaced with hands-on, project-based learning, the result is the development of students who are confident in their ability to accomplish real achievements with their learning1. The move toward project-based freshman curricula began in the United States in the 1990s; with key motivation arising from the National Science Foundation

Swanbom, M., & Hall, D., & Crittenden, K. (2008, June), Centrifugal Pump Design, Fabrication And Characterization: A Project Driven Freshman Experience Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4273

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015