OPEN-SOURCE TOOLS FOR A SIMULATED-EXPERIMENT ASSEMBLY IN ENGINEERING LEARNING
Introductory laboratories are widely accepted as an essential path in engineering curricula, to acquire laboratory skills and avoid possible misconceptions in theoretical concepts. Nowadays, instructors have also the challenge of design innovative tasks to encourage students, preferably within the use of visually-attractive computational tools, and find new scientific research vocations. Additionally, both budget and schedule problems involved in high education require alternatives to traditional laboratory work. Open-source codes have emerged as a low cost possibility to simulate basic experiments tailored to the needs of a particular subject level in different approaches such as completely structured sessions, open-ended experiments, multi-stepped projects, individual or team-job variations, or parametrical repetitions. The use of advanced simulation techniques allows simultaneously reducing an unhealthy gap between scholarly programmes and current investigation tools.
In this case, a versatile software utility (OpenFoam®) is used to explain two different concepts. The proposed practice lessons were organized in structured sessions, based on published real-experiments aiming to validate simulation results. Due to the theoretical basis needed for both cases, an initial briefing was anticipated to attendees to provide the essentials of involved concepts, the main objectives, the expected behavior and related further bibliography.
First, the well-known one-dimensional diffusion problem is revised to check Fick’s Second Law equations. On the other hand, the hydraulic flow through a cylinder obstacle is analyzed over the time, until the past-flow vortex formation, making a qualitative comparison with previously published works.
Our methodology brought two main benefits:
- The computational environment allows quickly changes of material properties, specimen dimensions and boundary conditions, and can be repeated by students.
- A friendly 3D visualization of inputs and outputs which can be easily adapted for using in a final-report work.
As a result of sessions, students manifested a clear advantage in comprehension, self-motivation and academic performance. Some of them also suggested new proposals for future editions related to different engineering subjects.