Asee peer logo

Let’s Rock The Boat: Evaluating The Concept Of Stability In Fluid Mechanics

Download Paper |


2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Civil Engineering Teaching Part Two

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.851.1 - 13.851.8



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Tanya Kunberger Florida Gulf Coast University

author page

Diane Bondehagen Florida Gulf Coast University

Download Paper |

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

Let’s Rock the Boat: Evaluating the Concept of Stability in Fluid Mechanics


As an upper level civil engineering course, Fluid Mechanics often presents concepts that are unfamiliar to engineering students, at least to the level of understanding expected in the course. Many of these fundamentals concepts are critical to success in the course, but are frequently difficult to visualize simply with figures and equations. Additionally, many laboratory exercises for students involve a “cookbook” type approach – which increases the chance of the attainment of reliable results, but inhibits curiosity and decreases the development of an independent engineering formation of ideas associated with problem solving. A possible solution to both issues is the incorporation of in class activities which illustrate fundamental concepts, engage students in an active learning environment, and allow for the students themselves to create a testing program.

The complication lies in determining a suitable topic and in creating an activity broad enough to allow for creative testing development but narrow enough to insure at least a marginal level of reliable results. The topic chosen by the authors was that of stability – one of the basic fundamental concepts in fluid mechanics. Working in groups of four to five students, the class was asked to develop an independent testing program that addressed the qualitative effects of adjusting weight in any one, or a combination of multiple, different directions (i.e. adjustments in the x, y, and / or z plane) on a floating object. Students were given supplies to create a model barge: a Styrofoam brick, cardboard sticks, modeling clay and containers sufficiently large to allow for floatation and movement when the barge was placed inside. No restrictions were placed on the direction in which the brick was to be placed in the water, the number and location of masts, or the number, magnitude and location of weight(s). Students were told the activity was to be summarized in a one-page paper, including testing procedure, results, and conclusions and were allowed thirty minutes for experimental setup, testing, and clean-up. Determination of student comprehension was assessed through both the summary paper, as well as an exam question. Results showed a high level of understanding, both in the short term, as concluded with the paper outcomes, as well as long term retention, validated with testing results. Quantitative analysis can easily be incorporated into the program by providing measuring instruments (rulers, calipers, and a balance) if a more robust study is desired.


Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) is the newest public university in Florida. Established in 1997, FGCU attracts thousands of students from a growing, younger regional population. The mission of both FGCU and the Whitaker School of Engineering (WSOE) is to foster excellence in education by structuring innovative, integrated lecture-lab classes. As one of the earlier upper engineering courses, Fluid Mechanics often confronts students with new concepts and forces them to take a more in depth view on topics that they may or may not have previously considered. When confronted with new ideas, many individuals find that a hands-on approach, which allows for experimentation, trial and error, and independent testing, is more effective in

Kunberger, T., & Bondehagen, D. (2008, June), Let’s Rock The Boat: Evaluating The Concept Of Stability In Fluid Mechanics Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3462

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015