Asee peer logo

Expanding Perception: How Students “See” Fluids

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.713.1 - 26.713.10



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Katherine Goodman University of Colorado, Boulder Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Katherine Goodman is currently a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder in the ATLAS Institute, working toward a Ph.D. in Technology, Media, and Society. Her research is in engineering education, with a focus on fluids and design courses. She holds a B.S. in mathematics and a masters of professional writing. She has previously worked as a technical writer and project coordinator, and as an instructor in composition at the University of Southern California and the Community College of Aurora.

visit author page


Jean Hertzberg University of Colorado, Boulder Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Hertzberg is currently Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at CU-Boulder. She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in measurement techniques, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, design and computer tools. She has pioneered a spectacular course on the art and physics of flow visualization, and is conducting research on the impact of the course with respect to visual perception and educational outcomes. Her disciplinary research centers around pulsatile, vortex dominated flows with applications in both combustion and bio-fluid dynamics. She is also interested in a variety of flow field measurement techniques. Current projects include electrospray atomization of jet fuel and velocity and vorticity in human cardiac ventricles and large vessels.

visit author page


Tim Curran University of Colorado Boulder

visit author page

My research has focused on human memory since the early 1990s. This has included cognitive/behavioral studies, neuropsychological studies in brain-injured patients, positron emission tomography (PET), fMRI, MEG, as well as ERP. I have run my own ERP lab since 1995, and have been continuously funded to conduct ERP studies of recognition memory since 1997 (McDonnell-Pew Foundation: 1997-2001; NIMH/NIH: 2002-2012). Around 2000, I also began conducting ERP and behavioral research related to perceptual expertise. This work has been continuously funded since 2001 (McDonnell Foundation: 2001-2010; NSF: 2006-2016).

visit author page


Noah D Finkelstein University of Colorado Boulder

visit author page

Noah Finkelstein is a Professor of Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder and conducts research is in physics education, specifically studying the conditions that support students’ interests and abilities in physics – developing models of context. He is a director of the Physics Education Research (PER) group and a Director of CU’s Center for STEM Learning. He is involved in education policy serving on many national boards, is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and named a Presidential Teaching Scholar for the University of Colorado system.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Expanding Perception: How Students “See” FluidsSince 2003, an R1 university has offered a course called Flow Visualization (Flow Vis). It iscross-listed as a mechanical engineering elective and a fine arts studio course, and bringstogether mixed teams of engineering and fine arts photography or film students. It focuses on theproduction of aesthetically pleasing and scientifically useful images of fluid flows. Flow Visstudents have responded enthusiastically, with exit survey comments such as “I’ll never ignorethe sky again” or “I see examples of flow vis all the time now.”In prior work, these student reactions were linked with a positive shift in affect, which wemeasured through the Fluids Perception Survey. This outcome was in contrast to the surveyresults from Fluid Mechanics, a traditional engineering core course, with a highly analytic,mathematical approach. Exit surveys of students in Fluid Mechanic reveal a negative shift inaffect, which is typical of other technical courses.More specifically, the responses from Flow Vis students can be termed an expansion ofperception – when learners see everyday objects or events through the lens of the content (Pugh,2011). Expansion of perception is often associated with deeper conceptual understanding andthe ability to transfer learning to new settings. To investigate this expansion of perception, ourresearch has taken a two-prong approach.One approach looks at how individuals learn to perceive fluid flows and understand them.Working with colleagues in Psychology, we developed a visual expertise experiment.Preliminary results (n=6) demonstrated that subjects with no prior fluids knowledge can improvetheir perception of fluid flows, sorting images into turbulent and laminar categories, after onesession of feedback-driven training. These results have encouraged us to ramp up the complexityof the perception training. A future study will use a similar task to compare fluids students tosubjects with no prior fluids instruction. The eventual goal of this work is to create a reliable,valid measure that can gauge whether students of fluids are gaining visual expertise during asemester-long course, so that we can study the relationship between that expertise and conceptuallearning gains.The other approach examines the expansion of perception through the classroom culture of theFlow Vis course. We surveyed the class and interviewed a small group of students to betterunderstand how teaching practices and student learning intersect. What aspect of this coursehelps students, both from engineering and art, internalize and apply their understanding offluids? How can we adapt the teaching practices from Flow Vis for other courses, other contentareas?Taking these approaches together, we explore the relationship between experiential teachingmethods (exemplified by Flow Vis) and the expansion of perception. Analysis of data and futurecourse suggestions are discussed.

Goodman, K., & Hertzberg, J., & Curran, T., & Finkelstein, N. D. (2015, June), Expanding Perception: How Students “See” Fluids Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24050

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: © 2015 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