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Use of FLUENT Software in a First-Year Engineering Microfluidic Design Course

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

FPD VII: Innovative Curriculum Elements of Successful First-Year Courses

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1592.1 - 22.1592.14



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Paper Authors


Barbara Elizabeth Carruthers The Ohio State University

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Barbara E. Carruthers is a Mechanical Engineering graduate student at The Ohio State University and a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the OSU Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors (FEH) Program. Ms. Carruthers with graduate with her M.S.M.E. from Ohio State in 2012.

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Paul Alan Clingan The Ohio State University - EEIC

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Lecturer - First Year Engineering Program
Engineering Education and Innovation Center
The Ohio State University
MS - Chemical Engineering - Bucknell University - 1988
BS - Chemical Engineering - Bucknell University - 1986

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Use of FLUENT Software in a First-Year Engineering Microfluidic Design Course [authors] Advancements in chemical, biomedical, and aerospace engineering have created a needfor college graduates with a strong foundation in micro- and nanotechnologies1,2. To meet thisneed, universities have begun to include microfluidics and nanotechnology courses in theundergraduate curriculum. And considering the increasing speed and accuracy of computationalmodeling tools, a parallel emphasis has been placed on the use of FLUENT® and similarsoftware in these courses3,4. Currently, the integration of FLUENT® software is most often seen only in higher levelcourses at the undergraduate level2,5,6. In this case, students are equipped with the basics of fluiddynamics from their core classes, which allows them to focus on the implementation of suchproblems and the rote mechanics of operating in the FLUENT® environment3. This approach,while helpful in preparing students for industry, robs them of a visualization tool which couldhave supplemented traditional course material throughout their undergraduate careers. The [institution] has created a “cornerstone” design course, available to first-yearstudents, in which basic micro-fluid dynamics concepts are presented, using FLUENT® softwareas a visualization and verification tool7. This allows first-year students to identify and developan interest in fluid dynamics at the start of their undergraduate career, shaping their progressionthroughout the curriculum. In this “cornerstone” design course, students follow a process designed to mirroruniversity research, following a project-based learning approach15. After learning the basicconcepts governing fluid flow in a pipe, teams of four students design a unique microfluidicchannel, which is created physically in a silicone chip. The chip is then tested to determine theshear flow required to shear a yeast cell from the bottom of the channel. The experimentalresults from the model are compared to analytical results calculated by hand, and then to resultscalculated in FLUENT® by the teams. Success in teaching advanced concepts is achieved through tried-and-true teachingmethods8,9,10. The [institution’s] teaching program in the first year utilizes undergraduateteaching assistants who have completed the course in prior years to create tutorials and helpguide the students through FLUENT®’s steep learning curve11. This process supplements theinstructor’s lecture12 and provides teams with frequent one-on-one support. Traditional printedclass materials are supplemented with research papers to familiarize students with thepresentation of data14. Additionally, student feedback is encouraged throughout the course withthe use of electronic “journals” in which students receive a few bonus points to submitanonymous responses to a provided prompt13. Overall, results were seen in the high quality of the work produced by students, as well asthe enthusiastic student reviews for the course. The course concludes with a poster presentation,judged by industry professionals in the fields of chemical, mechanical, civil, and aerospaceengineering as well as biology, chemistry, and medicine. These judges are encouraged tocomment on the quality of the research as a whole, and often do – frequently commenting on theuse of FLUENT® software by first-year students. Anecdotally, the [institution] has found thatindustry is interested in hiring young students with FLUENT® experience. Students have, aftercompleting the course, had success in using FLUENT® in an industry setting as intern orcooperative education students.References: 1. Fonash, Stephen. “Education and Training of the Nanotechnology Workforce.” Journal of Nanopoarticle Research © 2001. 2. Wendy C. Crone, Robert W. Carpick, Kenneth W. Lux, Buck D. Johnson. “A Course in Micro- and Nanoscale Mechanics” ASEE Annual Conference © 2010. 3. Pines, David. “Using Computational Fluid Dynamics to Excite Undergraduate Students about Fluid Mechanics” ASEE Annual Conference ©2004 4. Barber, T. “The Use of Advanced Simulation Tools in Capstone Design Projects” WSEAS International Conference on Engineering Education © 2009 5. Bhaskaran, Rajesh and Collins, Lance. “Integration of Simulation into the Undergraduate Fluid Mechanics Curriculum using FLUENT” ASEE Annual Conference © 2003 6. Tim Ameel, Bruce Gale, and Ian Harvey. “A Three-semester Interdisciplinary Educational Program in Microsystems Engineering” ASEE Annual Conference © 2003 7. Clingan, P.A., Tomasko, D.L., Allam, Y. “Work in Progress: Micro-/Nano-technology `Lab-on-a-chip' Research Project for First-Year Honors Engineering Program” Frontiers in Education Conference, © 2006. 8. Madiera, Luis; Alves, Manuel; Rodrigues, Alirio. “Teaching Non-Ideal Reactors with CFD Tools.” ASEE Annual Conference © 2004. 9. Filipa Carneiro, Celina P. Leão, Senhorinha F. C. F. Teixeira. “Teaching differential equations in different environments: A first approach” Computer Applications in Engineering Education Journal. © 2009 10. Wiesner, T.F., and Lan, W., “Comparison of Student Learning in Physical and Simulated Unit Operations Experiments,” Journal of Engineering Education, © 2004. 11. Stern, F. and Xing, T. “Hands on CFD Educational Interference for Engineering Courses and Laboratories.” Journal of Engineering Education, ©2006 12. Wankat, P.C., “Integrating the Use of Commercial Simulators into Lecture Courses,” Journal of Engineering Education, © 2002. 13. Campbell, J.O., Bourne, J.R., Mosterman, P.J., and Brodersen, A.J., “The Effectiveness of Learning Simulations for Electronic Laboratories,” Journal of Engineering Education, © 2002. 14. Ian Papautsky and Erik T. K. Peterson. “An introductory course to biomedical microsystems for undergraduates.” Biomedical Microdevices Journal. ©2008 15. H.A. Hadim, S.K. Esche, "Enhancing the engineering curriculum through project-based learning," Frontiers in Education Conference, © 2002

Carruthers, B. E., & Clingan, P. A. (2011, June), Use of FLUENT Software in a First-Year Engineering Microfluidic Design Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18715

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