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Integrated Fluids and Electronics Labs to Measure Fluid Flow

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies: Best Papers

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Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


Kristen Ann Thompson Loras College

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Dr. Kristen Thompson is currently an Associate Professor of Engineering at Loras College. She teaches Thermodynamics, Fluid Mechanics, Dynamics Systems, and Introductory Physics courses. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and her B.S. from Michigan Technological University both in Chemical Engineering.

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Danial J. Neebel PE Loras College

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Dr. Danial Neebel, PE is a Professor of engineering and computer science at Loras College. During the 2013-2014 academic year he served as a Visiting Professor at the US Air Force Academy in the departments of electrical and computer engineering and computer science. His research interests include digital system design and testing, computer architecture, and computer science and engineering education.

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Knowledge of theory is deepened by examining how the theory models the physical world. Exercises in the laboratory can enhance the understanding of the models by demonstrating both the accuracy and the shortcomings of the theoretical models. To help students achieve a better sense of connections between theory and the physical world, we have developed laboratory experiences to measure the flow of fluid using transducers and computer-based instrumentation. The goals of these experiments are to extend students’ knowledge of fluid behavior as well as extend understanding of instrumentation systems. Several experiments were developed and implemented at a very low cost primarily using materials readily available at most hardware stores.

In the study of fluid flow behavior, the first lab examines water flow while a second lab looks at air as a fluid. In the first lab, students calibrate a flow meter by manually measuring the mass discharged during defined time intervals. Students use multiple flow rate measurements to ensure a linear response from the meter. The second lab uses air and the students are asked to determine how the calibration for the water flow rate compares to the air flow rate calibration. At this point students demonstrate that the linear velocity of the fluid that is the critical component. Manual verification of the air flow rate measurement is done using a Pitot tube attached to a water filled manometer. Use of the Pitot tube gives students additional experience with the Bernoulli Equation and this important device often used to measure airspeed.

The flow meter uses a magnetic turbine and a Hall Effect sensor to generate pulses for each rotation of the turbine. The pulses are read using the counter on the National Instruments MyDAQ and LabVIEW. The students are introduced to the NI MyDAQ in the electric circuit class and associated lab. Students are then instructed on how to build a LabVIEW™ program to read and convert the rotation rate to a linear velocity as well as a volumetric flow rate. This method of integrating theory from different engineering theory courses by engaging students in practical applications helps the students to further their knowledge and understanding in both targeted areas. We are working on new experiences to integrate additional topics.

Thompson, K. A., & Neebel, D. J. (2016, June), Integrated Fluids and Electronics Labs to Measure Fluid Flow Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25775

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