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Virtual Reality Case Studies in Fluid Mechanics: Development, Student Performance and Feedback

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Technical Session 3: The Best of Computers in Education

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors


Kyle Johnsen University of Georgia

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Kyle Johnsen is an Associate Professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia. Dr. Johnsen joined the University of Georgia in 2008 after earning his PhD in Computer Engineering from the University of Florida. His research focuses on emerging human-computer interaction technologies for health, education, and the environment.

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Siddharth Savadatti University of Georgia

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Dr. Siddharth Savadatti received his PhD in Computational Mechanics from North Carolina State University in 2011 and has since been on the faculty of the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia. He teaches mechanics and numerical methods courses such as Statics, Fluid Mechanics, Programming, Numerical Methods for Engineers and Finite Element Analysis. In addition to traditional face-to-face classes, he has designed and taught courses in fully online and completely flipped formats.

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This paper presents the development of two desktop virtual reality case studies aimed at exploring basic concepts of fluid mechanics in the context of solving simplified real world engineering problems, with an analysis of student performance and feedback.

The two case studies, one focusing on fluid statics and the other on fluid dynamics, revolved around meeting the freshwater needs of fictional coastal towns whose water towers are served by a desalination plant. The fluid statics case study involves identifying the cause of low water pressure at certain times of the day and leads students into redesigning the existing water tower to ensure adequate water pressure at all times. The fluid dynamics case study involves the design of pipe + pump systems needed to extract saltwater from the ocean and deliver the desalinated water to the towns’ water towers. Dependence of static fluid pressure on water height; effects of frictional losses, cavitation and bursting pressures on pipe design; and sizing of pumps (single and in series) are the main topics explored in these case studies.

Classroom trials were conducted in multiple sections of a sophomore/junior level undergraduate fluid mechanics course taught over two semesters by three different instructors. Data collected included student responses to questions embedded within the case studies, and responses to a survey. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of the data show that students’ overall performance in the case studies was on par with typical course averages; students found the user interface easy to use and the activities moderately difficult; and an overwhelming majority of students wanted more such case studies to be developed for fluid mechanics and for other courses (especially statics, strength of materials and thermodynamics). Students especially appreciated the real-world context and the 3D visualizations provided by these case studies, but felt that some of the activities were time consuming and pen-paper representations were preferable. Suggested improvements included providing step-by-step solutions and allowing more attempts at getting the correct answers.

Johnsen, K., & Savadatti, S. (2019, June), Virtual Reality Case Studies in Fluid Mechanics: Development, Student Performance and Feedback Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33535

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