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The Use Of Hands On Table Top Laboratories In Undergraduate Thermal Fluid Science Courses

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.655.1 - 5.655.12

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Paper Authors

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Ann M. Anderson

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Richard D. Wilk

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

Session 1566 Ã

à The Use of Hands-On Table-Top Laboratories in Undergraduate Thermal- Fluid Science Coursesà Ã

Ann M. Anderson, Richard D. Wilk Union College, Schenectady, NY


The laboratory components of two upper level mechanical engineering thermal-fluid science courses at Union College were re-designed to use "table-top" experiments. The table-top lab setups allow the students to work simultaneously in groups of 2 or 3. The advantage of this approach is that the students participate actively in each lab (as opposed to "watch" the labs), they get hands-on experience with the phenomena under study, they control and use the data acquisition system, and the group interaction (between the 4-5 groups) appears to help motivate the students. As part of this redesign we designed and built a set of table-top wind tunnel systems each equipped with instrumentation for measuring flow velocity, pressure and temperature. The purpose of this paper is to describe these systems, to describe three lab exercises that use these systems, and to present some typical results.


The engineering programs at Union College have recently been redesigned under a major grant from the GE Foundation. A college wide task force was formed, and after extensive work, a common core in engineering was developed. Concurrent to this effort, the Mechanical Engineering Department undertook a substantial review of the mechanical engineering program. The new mechanical engineering curriculum, which follows the common core in engineering and computer science through the first year and then branches into a mechanical engineering specific curriculum, contains both restructured and new courses. The philosophy of the program, which has been ABET 2000 accredited, is to build a strong foundation, emphasizing the fundamentals in both the mechanics and thermal-fluid science sides of the discipline reinforced by significant laboratory and design experiences for the students. The new mechanical engineering curriculum employs a model of experiential learning across the curriculum emphasizing hands-on design and lab work in most courses. More than 50% of the engineering courses have a laboratory component. It is generally felt that there is a high pedagogical value in hands-on experiences for students.

In the area of facilities, we also developed a new studio classroom for teaching core mechanical engineering courses. The new studio classroom consists of 12 two-person work stations (networked computer, lab set-up area, table, chairs) with an instructor’s unit and a large video display screen located at the front of the room. The computers are equipped with general purpose data acquisition boards which can be used to measure temperature and voltage.

Anderson, A. M., & Wilk, R. D. (2000, June), The Use Of Hands On Table Top Laboratories In Undergraduate Thermal Fluid Science Courses Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri.

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