Is Flow Vis Right For You?

Is Flow Vis Right For You?


This is a copy of what I sent out to students before the semester started:


Thanks for signing up for the Flow Visualization course. This email is going out to both enrolled and waitlisted students.

I want to make sure that you understand what the course will be like, and what my expectations are, so if this course is not right for you, now is the time to find a different course. I want passionate students who are really interested in this topic, and are open to doing science for non-utilitarian purposes. Please don’t take this course just because it fits your schedule, or just because you need an ME tech elect.

This course will require a lot of ‘lab’ time. You’ll be designing and setting up your own fluids experiments, and there will be no procedures for you to follow. It will be frustrating at times; fluids experiments always are frustrating, and photographing them is harder than you think. If you are taking a heavy load of other courses, think twice about this course.

You’ll be working in teams not of your own choosing (possibly including including fine art students, definitely different from engineers). You will be expected to be flexible in your schedule in order to meet with your team. I expect you to spend 6 to 9 hours per week outside of the three lecture periods on this course.

You need to provide your own camera. An appropriate camera will cost between $200 and $300, but you won’t have to buy a textbook for the course. The camera must be capable of manual focus (most important) as well as manual exposure (shutter speed and aperture). If you are not sure your camera is up to spec, bring it by my office and I’ll check it out for you. Phone cameras can produce high quality images, but it is very difficult to control the focus, and usually impossible to change the aperture. If you plan to only use automatic settings, this is not the right course for you.

All students will be expected to complete 6 major assignments, including creating images, reports for your images and critiques of other students’ work, plus a handful of smaller assignments such as surveys and guest lecture attendance. For both grads and undergrads, there will be little emphasis on mathematics, but a lot on physics and imaging. There may also be some content on the history of art, aesthetics, photography and imaging, but this is largely a technical course.

I have much higher expectations of students signed up for the MCEN graduate section. These students will be expected to perform technical literature research (i.e. find and read reviewed journal articles and texts) on their own for each assignment, and to analyze the physics of their flows based on their readings. Each of your reports must be of publishable quality, with plausible physics and multiple references. You will be in trouble if you tell me part way through the semester,”Oh, I thought I was in the undergrad section!”

The grading will not be based on a quantitative scale. I’m going to match your performance up against my general expectations for students in each section; grad, undergrad, mechanical engineers, TAM and film students. If you need more defined grading procedures, i.e. x points for each assignment, then this course is not for you. In fact, you will get little to no feedback on your work outside of the class critique sessions. I will ask you to bring your laptop to class on critique days, and you will be expected to comment constructively on everyone’s work live, online in the course website, plus additional in-depth, substantive critiques.

The website for this course is fantastic (imho) and I require you to give me publication rights to your images and reports for the website and for academic purposes (I write articles about the course). All of your work will be published on the Flow Vis website. This is a very high visibility site. Just Google ‘flow visualization’ and see. This means that your work for this course will become part of your online identity. In future years, your reports and image for this course may come up first when a potential employer Googles your name. If this makes you uncomfortable, do not take this course.

The website is a WordPress site, and we will be making a user login for you soon, so watch for an email that will let you reset your initial password. You will be posting your public work there, and also submitting archival files through Canvas.

On the plus side, this course is a unique and amazing opportunity to see the world around you in a new way, and to contribute to your online professional portfolio. You might even have your work displayed in the Engineering Center hallways some day.

If you have more questions, do check out the website (just Google ‘flow visualization’ and it comes up #1!) or feel free to stop by and chat with me.

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