Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Education

Committee Chair(s)

Angela Minichiello


Angela Minichiello


Kurt Becker


Ning Fang


Wade Goodridge


Nancy Huntly


Fluid mechanics is a difficult engineering course that tends to act as a weed-out course for undergraduate students. Despite this, fluid mechanics is critical, with related careers in disciplines such as Mechanical, Aerospace, Civil, Environmental, Biological, Ocean, and Naval engineering. Within these fields, there is a lack of graduates with sufficient fluid mechanics knowledge to fill the available positions. One solution to this career pipeline is to increase student interest and understanding of fluid mechanics.

Efforts to make fluid mechanics more interesting and easily understood include curricular changes such as emphasizing historical aspects of fluids, computer simulations that model complex phenomena, and hands-on laboratories. Particle image velocimetry is a powerful, hands-on, flow visualization and measurement technique that has not been traditionally available to undergraduate students due to safety and cost limitations. This technique utilizes high-powered lasers and high-speed digital imaging to map fluid flow fields.

This study implemented a particle image velocimetry based mobile learning tool that minimizes safety and cost concerns by using low-powered lasers and a smartphone for imaging. Two groups of undergraduate engineering students with different fluid mechanics backgrounds took part in this study: (1) those who were currently enrolled in an advanced fluid mechanics laboratory course and (2) those who have never taken a fluid mechanics course. This study worked to understand a) how the mobile tool impacts student interest in fluid mechanics, b) the mobile tool's utility for learning, and c) the mobile tool's usability.

Student interest in fluid mechanics increased after using the mobile tool to visualize and analyze a flow field using vector output. Students who reported higher skill levels in engineering were more interested in fluid mechanics. Student perceptions of mobile tool utility were positively impacted by the aesthetic nature of flow visualization, vector output that was easy to interpret, and engineering skill. Improvements to utility include curriculum within the tool so that users of all fluid mechanics backgrounds can successfully collect and interpret flow field data. Suggestions to improve mobile tool usability included linear pathways for data collection, analysis, and interpretation within the mobile tool and a tutorial for first-time users.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.