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Using Computers In Teaching Gas Dynamics

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.577.1 - 4.577.8

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Paper Authors

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Sam Thompson

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John I. Hochstein

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Tom Benson

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Jeff Marchetta

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

Session 2366

Using Computers in Teaching Gas Dynamics Sam Thomason, John Hochstein, Tom Benson*, Jeff Marchetta

The University of Memphis Memphis, Tennessee 38152 and *NASA Lewis Research Center Cleveland, Ohio 44135


To assist in the teaching of undergraduate gas dynamics in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Memphis, two workstation-based interactive flow simulators, VU-INLET and VU-SHOCK, developed at the NASA Lewis Research Center were used by students. The simulators were offered as supplements to a traditional lecture course in an effort to help students develop a better and more intuitive understanding of gas dynamics. The programs simulate flow through a supersonic inlet, and supersonic flow past a wedge or series of wedges. For each program the flow conditions and geometries were interactively specified by the student using a graphical user interface. The appropriate one-dimensional aerodynamics equations were quickly solved by the programs, and numerical and graphical output were displayed as the input conditions were varied. The quick response to variation of input parameters allowed the students to easily evaluate a large number of "what if" scenarios, to recognize immediately that they had specified invalid conditions when they did so, and to examine far more cases than would have been possible if obtaining solutions "by hand." The interactive nature of the programs, with immediate feedback, seemed to significantly accelerate the learning process. It appeared to the instructor that these software packages were a definite aid to the students in developing a better and more intuitive feel for the physics of gas dynamics.


Personal computers and workstations are particularly well suited for the teaching of undergraduate gas dynamics. They are readily available, relatively inexpensive, and becoming much easier to use. The output from a modern personal computer may be directed to be princi- pally visual if desired, allowing for quick evaluation of results. The use of personal computers and workstations in undergraduate fluids engineering education is a relatively recent development. Some of the earliest efforts (Koening and Hodge, 1993; Fox and McDonald, 1992; Gerhart et. al., 1991; and Mattingly,,1987) centered around the use of software developed for personal computers, but lacked the graphical interface available on workstations. With those packages, students type input conditions at the keyboard and are presented with principally numerical output. More recent efforts by Torella, 1994, and Benson, 1994a, 1994b, 1995a and 1995b, have included a graphical user interface (GUI) which enhances the student interaction

Thompson, S., & Hochstein, J. I., & Benson, T., & Marchetta, J. (1999, June), Using Computers In Teaching Gas Dynamics Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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