Fluid Mechanics (ENGR 3050)

For students and employers who hire them:
Many engineering jobs today require experience designing equipment, fluid machinery being one type. However, the typical university engineering graduate has only limited experience in design. Some universities teach the methods or mathematics for designing rotating machinery, but learning the mathematics is not the same as designing the hardware from concept to completion. My class will cover the theory and the mathematics, but also validate the methods by building and testing a real, functioning propeller. From my experience in industry I know what industry needs, so I emphasize those topics more heavily during the course. I want my students to graduate with a solid theoretical background and much of the design experience many employers require.
Fluid mechanics is a vital and exciting field of engineering, which ranges from the design of home appliances such as hair dryers and vacuum cleaners, to fluid handling systems, hydraulics, aviation and aerospace products, wind energy, the automotive industry, and a myriad of research fields. The class will learn fundamental principles of fluid mechanics, including properties of fluids, hydrostatics, and the continuity, momentum, and energy equations. It will cover topics such as inviscid and viscous flows, laminar and turbulent flows, incompressible and compressible flows, and internal and external flows.

Stress Analysis of Propeller, performed by student


Propeller Design by K. Davis

As part of their propeller design project, students spend time studying and executing:
Complete clean-sheet aerodynamic design
Airfoil stacking
Computer programming for the design
Design optimization
3D modeling with SolidWorks
Stress analysis at operating conditions
Vibration analysis at full speed.
Test propeller in 5-meter race.
Final Report
(Test of propeller design by Kendra Davis, 2011. Test vehicle designed by James Thompson, 2010.)


Propeller Design

Students use fluid mechanics and aerodynamics principles to design, optimize, model, fabricate, and test their own propeller to fulfill a specified mission.

Student Responses

“The entire project was very time consuming, but most educational. The scope of the project appears to be focused and concise, but in fact, it was very broad. It included extensive programming, extensive spreadsheet use, SolidWorks 3-D modeling, not to mention the actual fluid mechanics calculations and analysis. However, the project was one of the greatest learning experiences. This propeller design was a real design problem with real roadblocks that had to be conquered, not the typical cookie cutter textbook assignment.” – Brandon Johnson, 201
“I really enjoyed this experiment with propeller design… I strongly encourage that this program continue in the class because it allows everyone to explore how engineering a design correctly will have its rewards. I do enjoy showing this propeller to family and friends.” – James Redhouse, 2010


“This project was a great experience, and I feel I have learned more than I bargained for. This project incorporated visual basic programming and debugging, problem solving,… solid modeling, stress analysis and simulation of rotation, trade off design decisions, physical testing, and a review of performance verses expected results. I am proud of my design and how well it performed.” — Rachel Gale, 2012


Students first examined fan blade designs from industry, such as the following that I brought to class:
                         Computer CPU cooling fan blades


Hairdryer Fan

Fan blades from a hair dryer
Hairdryer Fans

Swept fan blades from hair dryers


Class Time:  MWF 11:00–11:50 am (Spring)
Prerequisites: ENGR 3000
Co-requisite: ENGR 3055
Textbook:  Fluid Mechanics: Fundamentals and Applications, Çengel & Cimbala, McGraw-Hill, 2nd edition (2010).
ISBN:  978-0-07-352926-4


Other Fluid Machinery

Went to a junkyard last semester to find a torque converter to section and show students its inner workings. Found a Ford torque converter in good condition. The torque converter for automatic transmissions is a great example of fluid mechanics machinery (and a swirling vortex ring). Was able to cut the outer shell and vanes, but had to ask Roger Greener, our machine technician, to finish it off.

Torque Converter

Ford Torque Converter
As visible above, the exposed turbine vane on the left was cut through slightly during the dissection.



Torque Converter side

Note the airfoil shape of the stators.
TC Close-up

Sitting around this sectioned torque converter, we discussed the fluid mechanics principles that make it work.


TC Schematic

(Juvinall & Marshek, Fundamentals of Machine Component Design, Wiley, 1991)


The following teaching journal is for those who will be hiring my engineering students. Employers may not have a clear understanding of what was actually learned and accomplished in courses listed on students’ resumes, so in the following teaching journal, I will tell you myself what our students learn and what types of problems they have solved in my fluid mechanics class.

Teaching Journal:

Jan. 9, 2012

       Introduction, Basic Concepts

Jan. 11, 2012

       Fluid Properties – Density and specific gravity, compressibility and speed of sound, coefficient of volume expansion

Jan. 13, 2012

       Fluid Properties – Viscosity

Jan. 18, 2012

       Fluid Properties – Viscosity, surface tension

Jan. 20, 2012

       Fluid Properties – Surface tension

       Fluid Statics – Hydrostatic pressure, manometers, hydraulics

Jan. 23, 2012

       Fluid Statics – Manometers

Jan. 25, 2012

       Conservation of mass, Bernoulli’s equation

Jan. 27, 2012

       Bernoulli’s equation, Energy equation, Pitot static probes

Jan. 30 2012

       Bernoulli’s equation, Energy equation, Efficiencies

Feb. 1, 2012

       Internal Flow – Reynolds number, determination of pumping power

Feb. 3, 2012

       Internal Flow – Duct flow, sloping duct flows

Feb. 6, 2012

       Internal Flow – Pump sizing, viscous funneling

Feb. 8, 2012

       Internal Flow – Parallel fluid piping systems, analysis of orifice plate flows, venture meters

Feb. 10, 2012

       Internal Flow – Analysis of a nearby hydroelectric power plant; determining expected flow rate from known penstock diameters, lengths, and elevation.

       Momentum Analysis of Flow Systems – Control volume analysis of reducing elbow, thrusters

Feb. 13, 2012

       Momentum Analysis of Flow Systems – Control volume analysis of a flow nozzle, a fan, and a centrifugal pump.

Feb. 15, 2012

       Angular Momentum Analysis – Flow through a section of bent piping. Analysis of a centrifugal blower.

Feb. 17, 2012

       Exam 1

Feb. 20, 2012


Feb. 22, 2012

       Engineering Week activity.

Feb. 24, 2012

       Angular Momentum Analysis – of a centrifugal blower.

       Momentum analysis of an accelerating propeller-driven vehicle.

Feb. 27, 2012

       External Flow – Determine the aerodynamic drag of various bodies

       External flows are also covered heavily in the associated fluids lab (ENGR 3055).

Feb. 29, 2012

       Turbomachinery Analysis – The next several classes will cover the aerodynamic design of compressors, turbines, and propellers.

Mar. 2, 2012

       Turbomachinery Analysis

Mar. 5, 2012

       Turbomachinery Analysis

Mar. 7, 2012

       Turbomachinery Design

Mar. 9, 2012

       Turbomachinery Design

Mar. 12, 2012  ~ Mar. 16, 2012

       Spring Break

Mar. 19, 2012

       Turbomachinery Design

Mar. 21, 2012

       Computer programming – Surface points of airfoil cross section are due.

Mar. 23, 2012

       Computer programming

Mar. 26, 2012

       Computer programming

Mar. 28, 2012

       Exam 2

Mar. 30, 2012

       Computer programming

Apr. 2, 2012

       Solid modeling using SolidWorks

Apr. 4, 2012

       Solid modeling using SolidWorks – Computer program predicting propeller performance is due.

Apr. 6, 2012

       Solid modeling using SolidWorks – Stress plots of solid models are due.

Apr. 9, 2012

       External Flow – Submit solid model and report of propeller design.

Apr. 11, 2012

       Fluid Statics – Hydrostatics

Apr. 13, 2012

       In-class Propeller Performance Test – Students race with the propellers they have designed and fabricated.

Apr. 16, 2012

       Fluid Statics – Hydrostatic stability

Apr. 18, 2012

       Dimensional Analysis

Apr. 20, 2012

       Dimensional Analysis

Apr. 23, 2012

       Fluid Kinematics

Apr. 25, 2012

       Fluid Kinematics

Apr. 30, 2012

                Comprehensive Final Exam

| Thad Morton |

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Last Update: Wednesday, January 22, 2014