Introduction to Fluid Mechanical Engineering: From a Straw to an Airplane

Department: Engineering

Instructors: Reema Hajjar and Ashish Manohar
Instructors' Email:;
Prerequisites: None

Course Description

This course introduces students to the world of engineering, in particular aspects involving fluid mechanics. Water covers around 70% of the Earth's surface, and we are surrounded by air every day. Good understanding of their properties allows engineers to manipulate these fluids to improve our lives, from drinking water through a straw to traveling up high in the air. Students will learn the fundamentals of fluid mechanics behind different engineering applications, and be able to explain interesting fluid phenomena in daily lives. They will apply creativity, scientific knowledge and hands-on experiments to solve different engineering problems. Students will also be exposed to state-of-the-art research in fluid mechanics to broaden their outlook and inspire motivated students to pursue a research career.

Course Goals / Learning Objectives

  • The engineering profession and different engineering disciplines
  • Hands-on experience of engineering problem solving
  • Basic principles of fluid mechanics
  • Understanding the basic principles behind different engineering applications
  • Applying the knowledge of fluid mechanics to explain daily phenomena
  • Self-directed learning and the use of learning resources in a university

Course Outline

Week 1 Module - Introduction to Engineering

  • What is engineering? Let's start with Archimedes...
  • Campus tour: Engineering is everywhere around us
  • Engineering in the past, now and the future
  • Activity: Be engineers! Water Transportation Project
  • Review of fundamental physics: Force, Pressure, Newton's laws, Ideal Gas Laws
  • Student projects introduction: Self-directed learning and resources available on a university campus

Week 2 Module - Introduction to Fluids and Fluid Statics

  • What is a fluid? Fluid properties and descriptions
  • Viscosity: How gooey is a fluid? Fluid race demonstration
  • Funny fluids: Get your hands wet with non-Newtonian fluids
  • Activity: Egg drop competition with a twist
  • Experiment: Non-Newtonian fluid pool party (Walking on a fluid!)
  • Hydrostatic pressure: Pressure and depth
  • Applications of hydrostatic pressure
  • Surface tension: Capillary action demonstration
  • Buoyancy: Ah ha! Archimedes' principle
  • Field Trip: Maritime Museum San Diego
  • Activity: Creating art with fluids and flow visualization

Week 3 Module - Fluid in Motion

  • Bernoulli's equation: Theory
  • Applying Bernoulli's equations in daily lives
  • Demonstration: Water in an inverted cup, finger over a straw and transport of fluids
  • Experiment: Flow through a draining tank experiment
  • A brief introduction to the physics of flight
  • Field Trip? San Diego Air and Space Museum
  • Activity: Paper airplane competition
  • Fluid Drag: Pressure drag and form drag
  • Activity: Lift and drag on objects
  • Frontier research in fluid mechanics: swimming of microorganisms and cardiovascular fluid mechanics
  • Student project presentations

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