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Two "Take Home" Experiments In Fluid Mechanics

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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

5.676.1 - 5.676.8



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Timothy C. Scott

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

Session 1566

TWO “TAKE HOME” EXPERIMENTS IN FLUID MECHANICS T.C. Scott Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA 22903

I. Introduction

As pointed out by Scott1 and others, the background of most engineering students contains little experience in observing the world around them. When we introduce basic concepts using simple devices such as pistons and cylinders, springs, boiling water, etc., there are a large number of students who have not “seen” such devices and processes. Creating a connection between the analytical models and the real devices they apply to is thus becoming increasingly difficult.

To spend precious and limited time in class on the examination of simple physical devices greatly reduces the time available for the development of fundamental laws and analytical techniques. When we try to conduct such exercises in laboratory activities, we often find that the time required for students to carry out the mechanical operations necessary to run the experiment are considerable. Since most students have not handled tools, simple tasks such as assembling apparatus, wiring up meters, etc. can consume much of the time and require considerable instructor intervention.

Consider an experiment in which the student is expected to verify the pressure-temperature relation for boiling water in a flask attached to a vacuum pump. If a student group is required to connect the pump, thermocouple, and vacuum gauge along with some tubing and valves and then vary the pressure by manipulating the pump and valves, this activity can take up most of the time. At the end of the exercise, the student will have a list of “things” that they “learned” from the experiment which looks like this:

a. What a vacuum pump is b. How to connect tubing and valves c. How to adjust valves to get a set of test values d. What vacuum means and how to convert vacuum to absolute pressure e. Something about graphing pressure vs. temperature

So that the objective we wanted to get is buried in a list of other things. What should have been a simple 2 hour activity would require three 2 hour sessions so that we can separate the mechanics of running the experiment from the thermodynamic objective. It is no wonder that many have turned to demonstrations in which the instructor or a technician takes care of the mechanics of running the test or to computer simulations.

Scott, T. C. (2000, June), Two "Take Home" Experiments In Fluid Mechanics Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8786

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