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Incorporating hydraulic design software into an introductory fluid mechanics course through virtualized, internet-delivered software applications.

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Civil Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.733.1 - 23.733.20



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Paper Authors


Isaac W Wait Marshall University

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Dr. Isaac Wait is an associate professor of Engineering in the Division of Engineering at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. He conducts research and teaches courses in water resources and environmental engineering, and is a registered professional engineer in the States of Ohio and West Virginia.

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Mike McSween Bentley Systems

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Bradley E Workman Bentley Systems Inc,

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Incorporating hydraulic design software into an introductory fluid mechanics course through virtualized, internet-delivered software applications.Engineers increasingly rely on sophisticated software packages for the design and analysis of hydraulicnetworks, including drinking water distribution systems, sanitary sewers, and stormwater conveyancechannels. The design packages utilized offer a wide array of options and features, such that gainingmastery in how to use the full capability of a program can be a long process. Much of the functionalitycontained in such programs is above the level of undergraduate engineering students, particularly thoseenrolled in a first introductory course in fluid mechanics. Likewise, many of the key fundamentalconcepts that must be taught to students are not readily taught through a program of software education.However, there are certain principles (e.g., hydrostatics, the Reynolds transport theorem, energy loss dueto pipe friction, etc.) that can be illustrated simply and effectively using complex hydraulic designsoftware.After learning governing relationships and solving problems in the traditional ‘pencil and paper’ way,students can benefit from solving similar and potentially more sophisticated problems using industry-standard hydraulic design software. Utilizing software allows students to experiment with and observethe effects of varying material types, fluid properties, and system element sizes, for example. In thisiterative way, students can begin to develop a ‘feel’ for how a system behaves, and gain an appreciationfor the realm of reasonable answers much more quickly than might be possible if they were only able toperform the calculations manually. Besides quick and easy iterative calculations, another benefit to earlyincorporation of software tools into a content-rich course is that students become comfortable and familiarwith software that they may someday utilize in the workplace. This leads to a student impression thatthey are actively gaining skills that will be relevant and valuable once they graduate and begin a career.Although many instructors are already aware of the potential benefits of exposing students to designsoftware, some hesitate to actually implement software instruction in their courses because of accessbarriers, inconvenience, and technical challenges. In some cases, dedicated desktop computers are notavailable in the classroom, or the software to be taught is not installed on university-owned machines.Distributing large software installation files to students (some of which with incompatible hardware) canalso be a challenge, as can be the process of walking users through cumbersome and confusing licenseactivation procedures. Likewise, the prospect of providing technical support to students – each who hasinstalled software on a different computer, and may be experience a different technical problem – can beenough to dissuade an instructor from bothering with the potential morass of asking students to solveproblems using software. Fortunately, the rise of cloud computing and the ease of access to server-hosted,virtualized installations of software can eliminate many of the implementation barriers that mightotherwise cause instructors to feel that the cost of teaching software outweighs the learning benefits.A commercial virtualization product has been used to make a hydraulic design package (i.e., BentleyWaterGEMS) available to students for alpha testing. Using the small, lightweight, simple-to-usevirtualization client on university-owned and student-owned laptops, students can connect to softwareapplications hosted on a central server. The virtualized software package operates and appears the same asit would if the Windows application was instead installed locally, without most of the inconveniencespreviously identified. Additionally, since clients exist for multiple operating systems (e.g., Mac, Linux),access is enabled for students who use computers that would ordinarily be incompatible with programswritten for a Windows environment. Thus, it becomes easy for an instructor to incorporate a short in-classactivity, or assign a few problems to be solved on the computer, without a large investment of timepreparing the technology resources required for such activities.In this paper the details of the virtualization procedure that was utilized will be summarized, and thelearning activities conducted by students will be described. Special emphasis will be given to structuringthe pedagogical process to maximize the rate of student familiarity with software tools, and thecorresponding computational resources that are required during different phases (e.g., in-class demos vs.homework assignments). Feedback from students indicates an enthusiastic response to the exercises thatwere performed, including an interest in having more of their classes incorporate short-duration softwareexposure activities into the curriculum.

Wait, I. W., & McSween, M., & Workman, B. E. (2013, June), Incorporating hydraulic design software into an introductory fluid mechanics course through virtualized, internet-delivered software applications. Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19747

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