Asee peer logo

Method for a Low Cost Hydrokinetic Test Platform: An Open Source Water Flume

Download Paper |


2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies - Mechanical Engineering Labs

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Ryan Curtis Darfler California State University, Maritime University

visit author page

Ryan Darfler is currently a senior in Mechanical Engineering at California State University, Maritime Academy. His expected graduation date is August 2017. His research interests are in the testing and development of renewable energy platforms, with emphasis in the fluid dynamics aspects. In addition to his interest in fluid mechanics, he has experience as a fluid controls engineer.

visit author page


William W. Tsai California State University, Maritime Academy

visit author page

Dr. William W. Tsai is an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at California State University, Maritime Academy (CSUM). His research background is fluid mechanics and heat transfer and is studying laboratory education in those fields. Prior to CSUM, Dr. Tsai was a Member of the Technical Staff in the Fluid Mechanics Group at The Aerospace Corporation. Dr. Tsai earned his Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. at the University of California, Berkeley in Mechanical Engineering.

visit author page

Download Paper |


While educational wind tunnels are common place for instruction and experiments in fluid mechanics, they generally do not possess the capabilities to perform hydrodynamic testing. This paper will present the work by the authors to develop a water flume that would allow hydrodynamic testing at velocities up to 2.0 m/s. The flume was constructed by an undergraduate and at a cost lower than commonly available commercial units. Both the fabrication process and the potential experiments that the flume could house are designed to improve student learning in the area of fluid mechanics. The design is developed to be relatively compact, with a 7’x3.5’ footprint and utilizes a commonly available single-stage centrifugal pump. Flow velocities in the test section can be varied passively by changing the insert containing the test section and actively with a recirculation valve. The total cost for this project was approximately $3500 and required 3 months of part-time work to construct. Flow velocity measurements in the test section were made by simple flow visualization and found velocity ranged from 0.32-0.65 ft/s within a 6”x12”x12” test section. The water flume was subsequently used by a senior capstone project for testing of their water turbine. Student self-evaluations were used to assess whether their experiences reinforced fluid mechanics concepts and developed their skills in experimental fluid mechanics. The results show that the students believed their work with the water tunnel strongly met the learning objectives in the area of experimental methods and somewhat met in the area of concepts. Although the data set was small (5 students), it does show promising correlations that highlight the potential of the water flume in an engineering educational environment.

Darfler, R. C., & Tsai, W. W. (2017, June), Method for a Low Cost Hydrokinetic Test Platform: An Open Source Water Flume Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28665

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: © 2017 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