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"Implementation of a Low Cost, Mobile Instructional Particle Image Velocimetry (mI-PIV) Learning Tool for Increasing Undergraduate and Secondary Learners' Fluid Mechanics Intuition and Interest"

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Thermal Fluid Experiment Related

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Jack Elliott Utah State University

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Jack Elliott is a concurrent M.S. in Engineering (mechanical) and Ph.D. in Engineering Education student at Utah State University. His M.S. research is in fluid dynamics including the application of PIV, and his Ph.D. work examines student collaboration in engineering education.

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Angela Minichiello P.E. Utah State University Orcid 16x16

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Angela Minichiello is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Utah State University (USU) and a registered professional mechanical engineer. Her research examines issues of access, diversity, and inclusivity in engineering education. In particular, she is interested in engineering professional formation, problem-solving, and the intersections of online learning and alternative pathways for adult, nontraditional, and veteran undergraduates in engineering.

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Lori Caldwell Utah State University - Engineering Education

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Ms. Caldwell is a third year PhD student in engineering education at Utah State University with a MS in biological engineering. She is interested in the impact of authentic, hands-on engineering activities for K12 and undergraduate students to improve engagement and retention for minority student groups.

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This research-to-practice paper describes application of a new mobile Instructional Particle Image Velocimetry (mI-PIV) tool with an accessible vortex ring flow experiment for inquiry-based engineering education in fluid mechanics. Fluid mechanics is a foundational course within many undergraduate engineering degree programs including mechanical, aerospace, biological, civil, and ocean engineering. However, fluid mechanics concepts are commonly introduced to students as late as their third year of undergraduate study. Additionally, introductory fluids courses require substantial time spent solving analytical problems; anecdotally, students describe these courses as mathematically onerous, conceptually difficult, and aesthetically uninteresting. Taken together, these factors may perpetuate difficulty among students in developing fluid mechanics intuition and interest, limit students’ ability to relate classroom work to engineering problems involving real-world flows, and dissuade students from pursuing fluids-related engineering careers. We suggest there is need to provide engineering students with earlier opportunities for fluid flow experimentation through flow visualization. Flow visualization experiences, which can help students develop intuition and interest in fluids concepts, may be particularly transformative to student conceptual understanding and learning transfer. Indeed, we are not the first to suggest flow visualization and experimentation as an instructional approach; there is history of engineering education research and development in this area. Specifically, past researchers have studied the effects that flow analysis and visualization activities (i.e. Computational Fluid Dynamics [CFD], and Particle Image Velocimetry [PIV]), provided as classroom, laboratory, and demonstration activities, have on student interest and performance in fluids courses. As an optical, flow-field measurement technique, PIV is used to quantify flow velocity fields and to visualize structures within the flow. Thus, PIV is uniquely suited for supporting and improving student understanding of fluid flow concepts via hands-on experimentation and inquiry-based learning with actual flows. Unlike CFD, (a powerful computer simulation technique), PIV is a state-of-the-art flow measurement technique. PIV systems commonly comprise a high-power laser, sheet optics, a seeded flow field, and computational algorithms to generate quantitative and qualitative flow field outputs. While previous researchers have developed educational PIV systems focused on overcoming issues of laser safety, operation, and system cost, PIV-enhanced instruction still remains an exception in engineering education. In this paper, we describe application of a new mobile PIV learning tool, developed as part of a larger study, that enables accessible, safe, and economical PIV-enhanced instruction through use of mobile technology. With the mI-PIV Android application, a laser pointer, and plastic optics, we demonstrate an easily constructed and inexpensive vortex ring flow experiment. The vortex ring experiment is suitable for use by high school students to qualitatively consider the aesthetic vortex ring flow and estimate mean outlet velocity using the Bernoulli equation. Undergraduate students may go further and use the mI-PIV vector field output file (.txt) to calculate the vorticity field, compare vorticity to flow circulation, and explore the influence of outlet velocity and pipe diameter on vortex characteristics. Ongoing improvement of mI-PIV will rely on this and similar experiments, conducted by students in classroom/laboratory settings, to develop new experiment ideas, inform front-end application improvement, and refine curriculum.

Elliott, J., & Minichiello, A., & Caldwell, L. (2021, July), "Implementation of a Low Cost, Mobile Instructional Particle Image Velocimetry (mI-PIV) Learning Tool for Increasing Undergraduate and Secondary Learners' Fluid Mechanics Intuition and Interest" Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36528

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