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Implementing Inquiry Based Experiments In A Fluid Science Laboratory Class

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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

Fluid Mechanics Experiments and Laboratories

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.710.1 - 13.710.22



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Paper Authors


Calvin Hsieh Portland State University

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Calvin Hsieh is a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering at Portland State University. He works in the Hydroelectric Design Center Branch of the US Army Corps of Engineers in Portland, Oregon. He is a teacher for the Lego Robotics program at Buckman Elementary School in Portland, Oregon.

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Gerald Recktenwald Portland State University

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Gerald Recktenwald is an Associate Professor in the Mechanical and Materials Engineering
Department at Portland State University. He is a member of ASEE, ASME, IEEE and SIAM. His research interests are in fluid mechanics, heat transfer, applications of numerical analysis, and in improving undergraduate engineering education.

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Robert Edwards Pennsylvania State University-Erie

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Robert Edwards is a Lecturer in Engineering at The Pennsylvania State Erie - The Behrend College where he teaches Statics, Dynamics, and Fluid and Thermal Science courses. He earned a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology and an MS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Gannon University.

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

Implementing Inquiry-based Experiments in a Fluid Science Laboratory Class

Abstract Two inquiry-based laboratory exercises are incorporated into a laboratory section of a fluid mechanics class for third year Civil Engineering and Mechanical engineering students. The laboratory section also involves four other conventional laboratory exercises. The inquiry-based exercises are designed to confront student misconceptions and to develop the ability of students to use qualitative reasoning. Student learning gains and changes in attitude were assessed for 73 of the 119 students in the class who volunteered to participate in the research project. The study group completed background surveys and surveys on attitudinal change during the academic term in which the laboratory exercises were completed. Preliminary analysis of the surveys indicates that student attitudes toward laboratory work did not shift significantly. Students are familiar with conventional laboratory exercises in which their activity in the laboratory is largely confined to observing the equipment and recording data. The inquiry-based exercises require more active participation and analysis of results while the experiment is being conducted. The survey data and observations of the students in the laboratory suggest that additional effort is necessary to acquaint students with the inquiry-based approach. It is not clear; for example, to what extent student preference for conventional exercises is due to lack of experience with the inquiry-based approach.

Introduction Laboratory-based classes and lecture classes with a laboratory section provide hands-on learning experiences to engineering students. The equipment used in the laboratory exercises can vary from simple items on sale in a hardware store1-3, to complex and highly engineered systems like engines4. The nature of the student activity can also vary. In some cases, students make measurements from a highly prescribed protocol on equipment that has been tuned to give a predictable result. On the other extreme students can be given open-ended measurement assignments in which deciding what to measure, and designing the experimental procedure is part of the exercise5.

This paper describes our experience in implementing two inquiry-based laboratory exercises in a laboratory class that also consists of conventional laboratory exercises. We define a conventional experiment as a laboratory exercise focused on collection and analysis of data and the written presentation of the results. In a conventional exercise the students spend their time in the laboratory following prescribed steps to record sensor readings while the experiment is running. There is little or no analysis before the students leave the laboratory. The bulk of the effort is spent on data reduction and technical writing. At some other date, typically one week after making the measurements, students turn in a report on their measurements. Their report is written in the style of a scientific paper.

Hsieh, C., & Recktenwald, G., & Edwards, R. (2008, June), Implementing Inquiry Based Experiments In A Fluid Science Laboratory Class Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3811

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