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From Water Striders to Airplanes: Engineering Fluids

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

What is fluid? Ranging from air and water (which is obvious), to lava and glass (which is somewhat non-intuitive), to large objects like Jupiter (a gas planet) and the Sun (also gaseous), and even a galaxy (with numerous clouds), a fluid is simply everything that can flow.

In this course you will learn how to apply various important fluid dynamics concepts to a range of situations in nature like birds flying, fish swimming, and water strider striding. The class will focus on building fundamental concepts of fluid mechanics such as inertia, viscosity, and surface tension, which are driving and hindering forces in fluid. From understanding these concepts, you will be able to describe strength of a Typhoon, stickiness of honey compared to water, and roundedness of a water droplet. In addition, the course incorporates some quantitative thinking. It turns that as diverse as fluids may be, fluid mechanics in general can be universally explained by the so-called Navier-Stokes equation. This equation describes how fluids behave under driving and hindering forces. In addition, students will learn about important dimensionless parameters (such as Reynolds, Capillary, Weber numbers) and identify the essential fluidic nature of the given example. You will see why, in order to design a reliable ship, testing with 1/10 scale model is generally accepted.

Equipped with a basic understanding of the theory, students will tackle interesting and practical questions such as how does hurricane get formed, what makes airplane fly, and how fish swim. This course also has a strong hands-on component. For example, students will participate in fun experiments like building a vortex ring cannon, dancing corn starch on a speaker, finding a mute spot between two speakers, to name a few. As a final project, students will design and build a mini-hovercraft and participate in a racing competition.

By taking this course, students will be able to identify the dominant forces causing the fluidic motion. Aside from understanding this exciting field of fluid mechanics both conceptually and theoretically students will gain ample of practical engineering experiences. As such students will be trained to become a scientific thinker as well as a competent engineer.

There are no prerequisites for this course. Mathematical concepts will be explained as needed.