An old fluids lab in the basement of Tennessee Tech University’s Prescott Hall is getting some colorful new tenants: a bright blue wind tunnel, a dark blue pipe friction and parallel/series pump demonstrators and a green and gray variable-speed dual air compressor system.
Each of the pieces will be up and running in time for the fall semester to allow TTU mechanical engineering students to test their knowledge hands-on and gain experience with equipment they will use professionally.
“Students always want to ‘see it,’” said Darrell Hoy, chair of TTU’s mechanical engineering department. “They hear about the basic principles in the classroom but they learn better when they can see it happening in front of them.”
Though each piece of equipment will be used in different classes and for different engineering applications, they all underline the importance of energy efficiency.
“Students in particular are very much interested in energy efficiency these days,” Hoy said. “Engineering students want to make a positive impact on society; they want to contribute to reducing energy use.”
The wind tunnel, which replaces a decades-old homemade model, allows engineers to test their designs for fluid and aerodynamic performance. The pipe friction demonstrator shows students that it takes more energy to get water, for example, from a sewer line into a house if the pipe has a lot of twists, turns and joints.
The parallel/series pump system demonstrates that two small pumps can be more efficient than one large one. In times of low demand, an engineer would only have to run one smaller pump. The variable-speed dual air compressor system demonstrates some of the same general principles as the pumps.
And more pieces of equipment are on their way. The university has ordered a plasma cutter, which can cut complicated designs drawn on the computer in metal, and a laser to measure strains and stresses for an optics lab.
Each piece has been purchased through a special fee all engineering students pay. The fee is based on credit hours taken.
“We are the state’s only technological university, and it is important that we have updated equipment for our students to use,” Hoy said. “Now, we’ll be able to give them more hands-on experience to help them prepare for their professional lives.”