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Impact of Computational Fluid Dynamics Use in a First-Year Engineering Research Design Project on Future Performance in Fluid Mechanics

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

FPD 11: Culminating Considerations

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.695.1 - 24.695.11



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Paper Authors


Nicole L Hird Ohio State University

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Nicole Hird is a 3rd year Biological Engineering student at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. She has been an undergraduate teaching assistant for the Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors program since her 2nd year, and worked closely with the development of CFD teaching materials accompanying the microfluidics and nanotechnology research-design project.

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Deborah M. Grzybowski Ohio State University

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Dr. Grzybowski is a Professor of Practice in the Engineering Education Innovation Center and the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at The Ohio State University. She received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering and her B.S. and M.S. in Chemical Engineering from The Ohio State University. Prior to becoming focused on engineering education, her research interests included regulation of intracranial pressure and transport across the blood-brain barrier in addition to various ocular-cellular responses to fluid forces and the resulting implications in ocular pathologies.

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Impact of Computational Fluid Dynamics use in a First-Year Engineering Research Design Project on Future Performance in Fluid MechanicsIn the second semester of the First-Year Engineering Program, honors students have the option toundertake a research and development project with the focus on lab-on-a-chip (LOC) andnanotechnology applications. In this course students design, manufacture, and study cell adhesion in amicrofluidic LOC device and then design a hypothetical lab-on-a-chip device using microfluidics andnanotechnology. The students are introduced to basic fluid mechanics principles and computationalfluid dynamics (CFD) so they can characterize the flow-field and wall shear effects on cellularadhesion in their LOC device. Students may alternatively take a robot design-build course, which doesnot offer any introduction to fluid mechanics. Many of the students from both courses later take majorrequired courses which focus further on fluid mechanics. This paper seeks to address the followingresearch question: “Does introduction to the subject of fluid mechanics including computational fluiddynamics (CFD) in a first-year engineering research and design course increase studentscomprehension and performance in subsequent major-required fluid mechanics courses?”This course is intended to give students experience with research and design while teaching majorconcepts such as cell adhesion, cellular response to shear stress, and microfluidics, as well as givingstudents an introduction to nanotechnology and lab-on-a-chip devices, which are fields of growinginterest to the engineering community and typically first introduced much later in students'undergraduate experience. Fluid mechanics is instrumental in the students’ understanding of many ofthe course topics and in interpreting their research results. Students are given information on fluidmechanics theory in lectures and out-of-class materials, then complete guided worksheets to increasetheir understanding of the underlying principles of fluid mechanics. These worksheets use the Navier-Stokes equations to derive velocity profiles of cylindrical and rectangular channels. Students thencreate a simple computer program to calculate information about the flow profile in a rectangularchannel based on the equations they derive.CFD software is then introduced both as a tool for educational purposes (allowing the students tovisualize the flow properties described in other course materials) and as a method to analyze flow-fields in their custom devices prior to manufacture. Both ANSYS FLUENT (ANSYS Inc.,Canonsburg, PA) and SolidWorks Flow Simulation (Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp., Paris,France) have been used in recent years. Students follow a written tutorial that introduces them to theCFD environment and briefly displays some of its capabilities. They later use the software to performsensitivity analyses of the flow profile to microfluidic channel dimensions and to characterize the flowin their own custom-designed microfluidic LOC. These data are used to interpret the results of theirexperiments on yeast cell adhesion in their LOC device. The graphical interpretation offered by theCFD software helps dispel misconceptions about fluid flow and allows students to better visualize theflow fields.To measure student performance and comfort level with fluid mechanics principles, alumni of the first-year program (approximately 1500 students) are being surveyed about their understanding of fluidmechanics in subsequent major-required fluid mechanics courses. Only students in majors that offermore courses on fluid dynamics are being surveyed. These majors are: Aerospace/AeronauticalEngineering, Agricultural Engineering, Biological Engineering, Chemical Engineering, EcologicalEngineering, Environmental Engineering, Food Engineering, Materials Science Engineering, andMechanical Engineering. Students’ qualitative self-evaluation of their understanding of the materialwill be collected and compared between students from the nanotechnology research design course andstudents who elected to take the alternative robot design-build course in the first-year engineeringhonors program. Additionally, students’ actual performance in these classes will be quantitativelycompared based on their final grades in their major-required fluid mechanics course. Final grades willbe obtained through data available from the Student Informational System. Comparisons will be onlywithin each major. It is hypothesized that the earlier introduction of fluid mechanics will improvestudent performance and understanding of fluid mechanics principles in later courses. Research isongoing but will be completed at the end of the Fall 2013 semester; no conclusions can be drawn untilthe completion of the study.

Hird, N. L., & Grzybowski, D. M. (2014, June), Impact of Computational Fluid Dynamics Use in a First-Year Engineering Research Design Project on Future Performance in Fluid Mechanics Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20587

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