By Stephen Fitzhugh, PhD, P.E., Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director, David Crawford School of Engineering
The engineering Fluids Lab and an adjacent manufacturing-related laboratory space in the basement of Tomkins Hall are receiving a much-needed facelift thanks to the generosity of NU Trustee and Civil Engineering alumnus Paul Carrara and Joanne, his wife. The Fluids Lab is home to the flume, overhead pipework for hydraulic friction losses, and mechanical engineering energy conversion laboratory equipment. The project began innocently enough when faculty sought to replace the half-century old flume. The flume consists of two large tanks separated by a Plexiglas-lined sluiceway used for performing open-channel water flow laboratory exercises.
Our own Mike Kelley, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering (NU’74, Colonel, US Army Retired) remembers the old flume. “The development of the new flume project is a great addition to the NU engineering experience. As a CE alum from the early 1970’s I remember the old configuration, now thankfully a thing of the past. Future students will now have a much richer hands-on experience, which is so in keeping with our NU Mission Statement: ‘… to execute as well as to conceive…’ Thanks to all who made this dream a reality.”
The Fluids Lab is used by civil engineering and mechanical engineering students to study engineering principles such as the characteristics of open channel flow, friction losses in piping systems, and characteristics of thermal cycles. A recent freshman engineering project was the creation of a hydro-electric generator powered by the flume. The civil engineering students built the dam, the mechanical engineering students designed a turbine that was printed on the 3-D printer, and the electrical and computer engineering students built the generator. The adjacent manufacturing-related laboratory provides the opportunity for students to practice a variety of creative processes including computer integrated manufacturing and 3-D printing.
Throughout the 2016 fall semester, aging equipment was removed to pave the way to modernizing the lab. During the Thanksgiving break, the contractor removed concrete pedestals and filled in unneeded channels in the floor. Work was suspended until fall semester classes ended, then the renovations resumed in earnest. In one corner of the lab, three storage areas were combined into one project space to house the Thermogravimetric Analysis equipment, the NASA research grants projects, and instruments for the Fluids Lab. Along the south end of the lab the walls were rearranged to create a large presentation wall with whiteboards and a large LCD monitor for lectures and student presentations. The Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) Lab space was totally renovated, removing the existing wall between the lab and the 3D printer room.
Work is expected to be complete by March 15, and the new flume is expected to arrive in July. The flume is being manufactured by a fabricator in Vermont to our specifications and drawings.
We will plan an open-house for friends and alumni to see the renovated lab with a ribbon cutting and unveiling of plaque naming the lab in honor of the Carrara family. Stay tuned for details.