LEARNING BASIC ENGINEERING CONCEPTS THROUGH THE USE OF COMPUTATIONAL FLUID DYNAMICS

The integration of computer-assisted learning and simulation tools into engineering studies has become very important for the development and optimization of industrial processes. The increasing trend of this integration makes it convenient the introduction of these techniques in the early stages of the learning process. However, the use of simulation tools is usually complex as the simulation of industrial processes requires a deep understanding of the physical phenomena involved. Also, the classical methodology that is being actually used is based on a strong theoretical introduction concerning the mathematical methods that are used by the simulation programs, as well as a good background in linear programming and Computer-Aid Design. As a consequence, the learning of these tools is limited to very specific courses, usually addressed to PhD students or post-graduate code developers. This work describes the experience and methodology used in a set of courses focused on the development of students technical capabilities through the use of simulation techniques, mainly Computer Fluid Dynamics. This methodology was used in undergraduate and graduate levels, and with course-lengths limited by the ETCS credits. As the students come from very different fields (mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, and architecture), the examples proposed in the classes and the concepts involved were kept as general as possible so that they could serve as a tool to develop their basic engineering capabilities. Finally, we also analyze the pros and cons of using either commercial packages (like ANSYS or STAR-CD) or open-source libraries (as OpenFoam), giving some recommendations for the implementation of any of these two approaches.