473027 Embedding Hands-on Mini Laboratory Experiences in a Core Undergraduate Fluid Mechanics Course: A Pilot Study

Tuesday, November 15, 2016: 2:12 PM
Continental 3 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Duanduan Han and Victor M. Ugaz, Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

Laboratory instruction plays a critical role in engineering education by enabling students to apply theory-oriented concepts to predict behavior in real systems, analyze and interpret data, and critically evaluate the experiment results. But recent enrollment pressures have led to larger class sizes, making it increasingly challenging to achieve the level of engagement needed to effectively deliver hands-on content. Here we report the results of a pilot study aimed at addressing this need by embedding laboratory experiences directly into a core undergraduate fluid mechanics course. Instead of the 1 to 2 semester delay that typically exists between the junior-level theory course and the senior-level dedicated unit operations laboratory, we introduced three self-contained “mini-labs” into the theory course that were each designed to be comparable in scope to a homework assignment. Students completed hands-on experiments approximately 30 - 45 minutes in duration that supported learning objectives involving friction losses in pipes, flow measurement, and centrifugal pump analysis. A companion assignment involving data analysis and interpretation of results was developed that was designed to be more focused than a conventional laboratory report. Our pilot program spanned offerings of the course during two different semesters and involved a total of approximately 70 students. We describe our efforts to develop the laboratory experiments and assignments, schedule the lab sessions using an online tool, and discuss our implementation experiences. A post-assessment yielded positive feedback indicating that students gained confidence in solving engineering problems and identifying connections between theory and practice. Results of this pilot will be used to expand the mini-lab format to other core undergraduate courses in support of an innovative new shared instructional facility currently under construction at our institution.

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See more of this Session: Labs and Hands-on Activities at Scale (large classes)
See more of this Group/Topical: Education Division