Fluids Classroom Innovations

The IIHR Fluids Workshop, A Community of Scholars

  • James H.J. Buchholz (University of Iowa)


The IIHR Fluids Workshop is a laboratory designed for undergraduate research and open-­‐ ended course projects. This nascent laboratory – established in the fall of 2012 – is unique in that it is based on a model in which students have access to dedicated state-­‐of-­‐the art research facilities, and are supported by a growing community of students who interact directly to provide tutorials, assistance, and a supportive environment in which students can engage in their work. We strive to bring students to a high level of productivity within the span of a typical undergraduate project. This interaction is facilitated through a non-­‐competitive project application which requires students to consider the objectives and anticipated outcomes of their project, expected needs from the lab and community and, finally, a contribution that they can make back to the lab. Such contributions are typically in the form of a tutorial or reference document, or hands-­‐on training of another member of the community.

The physical facilities within the laboratory include a low-­‐turbulence water channel, which is designed and built in-­‐house to provide high flow quality and is optimized for optical access to the flow, since flow visualization is a particularly intuitive means by which to interrogate the flow. Therefore experiments in this facility can provide students with immediate feedback on the dynamics of the flow being investigated. The flow field can be interrogated qualitatively using dye injection using a custom-­‐built apparatus for control of multiple dye streams; or quantitatively, using particle image velocimetry (PIV). To facilitate both of these methods, a high-­‐speed camera, continuous-­‐wave laser, and timing electronics are available to students. Other instrumentation consists of National Instruments LabVIEW-­‐based data acquisition systems, and a student-­‐built force balance for aerodynamic load measurements in the water channel. Motion of experimental models can also be incorporated using a three-­‐axis motion control system.

The laboratory has impacted courses and undergraduate research, in some way, within all engineering departments at the University of Iowa, and has supported federally-­‐ and internally-­‐funded research projects in which undergraduates have participated. The laboratory has also provided a platform for outreach to K-­‐12 students.

The full paper will discuss challenges faced in achieving sufficient student collaboration and strategies to enhance this important aspect of the laboratory, as well as the results of early attempts to assess the impact of the laboratory on academic programs and student learning. The long-­‐term plan for the laboratory will also be explained in further detail, including efforts currently underway to introduce intuitive and powerful computational tools into the laboratory to augment and complement the experimental facilities.

How to Cite:

Buchholz, J. H., (2014) “The IIHR Fluids Workshop, A Community of Scholars”, 2014 ASEE North Midwest Section Conference 2014(1), 1-10. doi: https://doi.org/10.17077/aseenmw2014.1003

Rights: Copyright © 2014, James H. Buchholz.

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Published on
17 Oct 2014
Peer Reviewed