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Work in Progress: Mobile Instructional Particle Image Velocimetry for STEM Outreach and Undergraduate Fluids Mechanics Education

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Technical Session 9:Topics related to STEM

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors

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Lori M Caldwell Utah State University


Angela Minichiello P.E. Utah State University Orcid 16x16

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Angela Minichiello is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Utah State University (USU) and a registered professional mechanical engineer. Her research examines issues of access, diversity, and inclusivity in engineering education. In particular, she is interested in engineering identity, problem-solving, and the intersections of online learning and alternative pathways for adult, nontraditional, and veteran undergraduates in engineering.

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This work in progress paper describes a project recently underway to develop, implement and disseminate curricular materials for a low-cost, mobile instructional Particle Image Velocimetry (mI-PIV pronounced “my-P-eye-V”) tool for high school science outreach and undergraduate fluid mechanics education. The proposed work is based on the knowledge that a robust understanding of fluid mechanics—the fundamental science of fluid motion—is foundational within fields of critical importance to our nation’s infrastructure, safety and defense, including aeronautical, biological, civil, naval and ocean engineering. Despite tangible importance within engineering education, fluid mechanics concepts are rarely, if ever, introduced during high school. In college, even the most basic courses in fluid mechanics focus on mathematical problem solving, instead of hands-on experimentation, visualization, and measurement using authentic tools and practices. Moreover, by focusing on mathematical solutions to fluid flow problems, many undergraduate fluids courses fail to excite key aspects of student engagement—including internal motivation, interest, and curiosity—that can be awakened through the visual exploration of aesthetic fluid flows. Not surprisingly, engineering undergraduates often characterize introductory fluids courses as mathematically onerous, conceptually difficult, and aesthetically uninteresting. Early undergraduate courses in fluid mechanics, in fact, have been shown to act as curricular gatekeepers to fluids-related studies and careers. To improve student interest and technical capacity in fluids mechanics and provide new pathways to fluids-related engineering careers, we are developing a low cost, Internet accessible mI-PIV tool. Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) is a powerful laboratory technique used to measure and visualize flow fields that have been seeded with neutrally buoyant particles. Seed particles are illuminated using a high-energy pulsed laser and digitally imaged; digital image pairs are then cross-correlated to compute a velocity field that maps the flow of the fluid. Yet, despite their unparalleled flow measurement and visualization capabilities, traditional laboratory PIV systems are known to be dangerous and expensive due to the need for high energy lasers, precise imaging optics, and proprietary computational algorithms. As a result, expense, size, and safety concerns have limited application of PIV systems within educational settings. Recent advancements in LED technology and mobile computing and imaging, along with current availability of robust, open source PIV algorithms, however, now provide unprecedented capabilities that enable development of a low cost, mobile PIV tool for educational use. This paper will present the current status of activities and findings of the three-year project, which includes the development and iterative refinement of a mobile PIV application, handheld LED light source, and fluids engineering experimental activities in Year 1. Experiments and the mI-PIV tool will be implemented within existing high school STEM outreach programs and undergraduate fluids engineering courses during Year 2. Researchers will gather quantitative and qualitative data during mI-PIV implementation to inform iterative technical and curricular improvements. Broad dissemination of the mI-PIV tool and curricular materials during Year 3 will enable sustained and wide-ranging impacts of project activities. This project is funded by the Office of Naval Research through The Navy and Marine Corps STEM Education, Outreach and Workforce Program.

Caldwell, L. M., & Minichiello, A. (2019, June), Work in Progress: Mobile Instructional Particle Image Velocimetry for STEM Outreach and Undergraduate Fluids Mechanics Education Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33639

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