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Using Inexpensive Modern Equipment In Teaching Turbulence To Undergraduate Engineering Students

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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



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Page Numbers

4.579.1 - 4.579.8

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Francis Ting

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

Session 1526

Using Inexpensive Modern Equipment in Teaching Turbulence to Undergraduate Engineering Students

Francis C. K. Ting South Dakota State University


This paper summarizes the development of four laboratory experiments designed to enhance learning of turbulence theory by undergraduate engineering students. The concepts taught by these experiments included boundary-layer structure, flow separation, vortex shedding, surface pressure distributions, Reynolds stress, and statistical description of turbulent motion. The required equipment included an Acoustic Doppler Velocimeter and a low-range transducer for velocity and pressure measurements in water flows, a PC-based data acquisition system, and a water channel. Because the instruments were relatively inexpensive and the experimental procedures were simple and practical, these experiments can be readily adapted at other institutions. Initial responses from students were extremely positive.

I. Introduction

Most fluid flows occurring in engineering applications are turbulent. A typical example is the local scour produced by turbulent flow at bridges. Another example is the transport and dispersion of contaminants in rivers, lakes, estuaries and the coastal ocean. A good physical understanding of turbulence is important for solving many engineering problems dealing with fluids in motion. However, teaching turbulence to undergraduate students is a challenge because turbulent flow is complex and much of the information about turbulence has been gained from laboratory studies. Lectures alone are not very effective in learning the theory of turbulence. Physical understanding of turbulence should include visualization of turbulence phenomena as well as laboratory experimentation that provides hand-on experience. In the classroom, students may observe turbulent flows through a series of films produced by the National Committee for Fluid Mechanics Film (NCFMF)2. In the laboratory, the Reynolds’s experiment is often performed as an introduction to laminar or turbulent flow. This experiment involves observing the mixing of a dye filament across the flow in a tube and the increase in pressure drop along the tube as the flow becomes turbulent. Other experiments in turbulence will require more sophisticated equipment, and thus are not always performed in undergraduate fluid mechanics laboratories.

The basic concepts of turbulent flows that are covered in a typical undergraduate fluid mechanics course include transition from laminar to turbulent flow, boundary-layer structure, flow separation, vortex shedding, and surface pressure distributions in flow over immersed bodies. More advanced topics may include Reynolds stress, self-similarity, and statistical description of turbulent motion. Because velocity and pressure are of primary interest in a fluid flow, learning of

Ting, F. (1999, June), Using Inexpensive Modern Equipment In Teaching Turbulence To Undergraduate Engineering Students Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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