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Implementation of Very Low-cost Fluids Experiments to Facilitate Transformation in Undergraduate Engineering Classes

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Engineering Laboratory Experiences

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.909.1 - 26.909.9



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Paper Authors


Cecilia Dianne Richards Washington State University

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Dr. Cecilia Richards is a professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University. Dr. Richards received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of British Columbia, Canada. She earned her Ph.D. in Engineering from the University of California at Irvine. She has authored over 100 technical papers and proceedings and holds two patents. She has supervised the research of 26 graduate students.

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Fanhe Shamus Meng


Bernard J. Van Wie Washington State University

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Prof. Bernard J. Van Wie did his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D., and postdoctoral work at the University of Oklahoma where he also taught as a visiting lecturer. He has been on the Washington State University faculty for 32 years and for the past 18 years has focused on innovative pedagogy research and technical research in biotechnology. His 2007-2008 Fulbright exchange to Nigeria set the stage for him to receive the Marian Smith Award given annually to the most innovative teacher at Washington State University.

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Paul B. Golter Washington State University Orcid 16x16

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Paul B. Golter obtained an MS and PhD Washington State University and made the switch from Instructional Laboratory Supervisor to Post-Doctoral Research Associate on an engineering education project. His research area has been engineering education, specifically around the development and assessment of technologies to bring fluid mechanics and heat transfer laboratory experiences into the classroom.

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Robert F. Richards Washington State University

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Dr. Robert Richards received the PhD in Engineering from the University of California, Irvine. He then worked in the Building and Fire Research Laboratory at NIST as a Post-Doctoral Researcher before joining the faculty of the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University. His research is in thermodynamics and heat and mass transfer. Over the last five years he has become involved in developing and disseminating research based learning methods. He was a participant in the NSF Virtual Communities of Practice (VCP) program in Spring, 2013, learning research based methods to instruct thermodynamics. More recently he introduced the concept of fabricating very low cost thermal fluid experiments using 3-D printing and vacuum forming at the National Academy of Engineering’s Frontiers of Engineering Education in October, 2013.
He is presently a co PI on the NSF IUSE: Affordable Desktop Learning Modules to Facilitate Transformation in Undergrad¬uate Engineering Classes, High School Recruitment and Retention.

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Implementation of Very Low-Cost Fluids Experiments to Facilitate Transformation in Undergraduate Engineering ClassesEngineering students emerge from many courses with a surprising lack of understanding of coreconcepts. The use of hands-on, experiential learning through in class experiments is anattractive approach to enhance understanding and learning outcomes. Major obstacles to thewidespread implementation of student-centered experiments in engineering classrooms are thecost and complexity of the experimental equipment presently available. This study looks at theimplementation of low-cost Venturi nozzle and Pipe Flow experiments in large MechanicalEngineering classrooms as a means to overcome these obstacles.The hardware used is designed to be light-weight, portable, and low-cost, while employingeasily sourced, inexpensive components, to arrive at per-student costs of less than a textbook($50 – $100). While the focus of the first experiments presented here is on fluid mechanicsconcepts, the approach is believed to lay the groundwork for a template that can be expandedinto a variety of STEM courses.In this paper, we report on the implementation of Venturi Nozzle and Pipe Flow experiments, ina junior-level Mechanical Engineering class. The class includes both 42 local, on-site studentsat a cental campus location, as well as 60 distance students studying at two satellite campuslocations. Communication between the central campus classroom, where the course instructoris located and the two satellite classroom locations is via internet mediated audio and videochannels. Students were divided into two groups. One group included one section of studentsat the main campus and one satellite campus. Those students worked in groups of three or four,to perform the fluids experiments. Also those students were provided with the low-costhardware and a worksheet guiding them through the experiment. Open-ended play with thehardware was encouraged. A second group of students included a second section of studentsat the main campus and the second satellite campus. These students were presented the samematerial to learn in either a lecture (for on-site students at the main campus) or a worksheet ( forsatellite campus students)In the first experiment, students measured flow rates and pressures of both air and waterflowing through a Venturi nozzle to test the validity of the Bernoulli equation under variousconditions. In the second experiment, students measured flow rates and pressures of both airand water flowing through pipe sections and hardware to determine head losses as a function ofnondimensional fluid parameters.The efficacy of the hands-on experiments in promoting learning of key concepts was assessedvia several mechanisms. First, pre and post quizzes were given to all students before and aftereither they did the hands-on experiments or they attended the equivalent lecture. Second, theworksheets filled out by students who did the hands-on experiments were compared to thosewho only did an equivalent worksheet without and experiment. Finally, a number of studentswere interviewed about their perceptions..

Richards, C. D., & Meng, F. S., & Van Wie, B. J., & Golter, P. B., & Richards, R. F. (2015, June), Implementation of Very Low-cost Fluids Experiments to Facilitate Transformation in Undergraduate Engineering Classes Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24246

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