Embedding Hands-on Mini Laboratory Experiences in a Core Undergraduate Fluid Mechanics Course: A Pilot Study
Three self-contained mini-labs were integrated into a core undergraduate fluid mechanics course, with the goal of delivering hands-on content in a manner scalable to large class sizes. These mini-labs supported learning objectives involving friction loss in pipes, flow measurement, and centrifugal pump analysis. The hands-on experiments were designed to be completed in 50-minute time blocks, and companion assignments involving data analysis were structured with a workload comparable to regular homework problems. Students booked time on the experiment apparatus using an online signup tool. In addition to improved performance in the course, a post-assessment yielded positive feedback indicating that students gained confidence in solving engineering problems and identifying connections between theory and practice. The mini-lab model also eliminates the time delay between fundamental instruction in theory courses and subsequent application in dedicated unit operations laboratory classes.