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Open-Ended Curiosity-Driven Fluids Lab Project

[+] Author Affiliations
Thomas G. Shepard, Christopher Haas, Rajagopala Menon

University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN

Paper No. FEDSM2017-69211, pp. V002T17A003; 8 pages
  • ASME 2017 Fluids Engineering Division Summer Meeting
  • Volume 2, Fora: Cavitation and Multiphase Flow; Advances in Fluids Engineering Education
  • Waikoloa, Hawaii, USA, July 30–August 3, 2017
  • Conference Sponsors: Fluids Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5808-0
  • Copyright © 2017 by ASME


The lab component of a fluid mechanics course permits a great opportunity for students to engage with course material. These labs can take many forms including field trips, guided inquiry exercises, formulaic lab exercises, practical/hands-on skill development, CFD and design-build-test projects to name a few. Previous literature on self-determination theory suggests that many positive results can be gained by giving students a choice in their studies. Related literature on the importance of curiosity in students suggests similar benefits. This paper describes a multi-week lab experience where students were given the opportunity to study anything remotely related to fluid mechanics with very few restrictions on implementation. The project goals were proposed by a student, or a team of two students, and then refined with the assistance of the course instructor to ensure proper scope. Pre-project surveys were used to gage the importance students place on studying material which is of personal interest and to determine how other parts of the undergraduate curriculum match up with student interest. Post-project surveys were used to gather input on the student experience of completing the curiosity project. This paper details the results from the various assessments and discusses feedback from the course instructor, lab instructors and students relating to project implementation, opportunities for improvement and some of the advantages of such a lab experience.

Copyright © 2017 by ASME



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