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Release: May 8, 2002

UI engineer receives $180,000 NSF undergraduate curriculum grant

Frederick Stern, professor of mechanical engineering in the University of Iowa College of Engineering and research engineer at IIHR - Hydroscience & Engineering, and his research colleagues have received a three-year, $180,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to improve undergraduate engineering curriculum.

The project is formally known as the DUE (Division of Undergraduate Education), CCLI-EMD-ND (Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement, Educational Materials Development, National Dissemination) Program. It will integrate computerized simulation technology into undergraduate fluid mechanics courses and laboratories by developing teaching modules for use in complementary computational fluid dynamics (CFD), experimental fluid dynamics, and uncertainty analysis. IIHR, a unit of the UI College of Engineering, is one of the world's premier and oldest fluids research and engineering laboratories where students and researchers from around the world study and research such phenomena as water flow along rivers, flash flood forecasting, and ship design.

Stern, who is the project director, says that the undergraduate engineering curriculum is changing in response to rapid advancements in simulation technology and the emergence of international standard procedures. He notes that the use of simulation-based design and -- ultimately -- virtual reality will shortly dominate the engineering practice in comparison to engineering's previous reliance on experimental observations and analytical methods. "It is not unreasonable to expect that a major shift will occur in how the scientific method forms a basis of conceptual truth, a shift from reliance on observations, based on experiments, to reliance on logic, based on simulation. A similar change has been occurring in reverse since the 16th century due to a shift from Aristotelian to Galilean scientific methods," he says. "These changes will take place as engineering becomes increasingly global and its procedures are made subject to international standards. Teaching modules developed under the present project will lead the way in this transition and represent a significant advance in U.S. undergraduate engineering education."

Stern's colleagues, involved in developing, implementing, evaluating, and disseminating the simulation technology, include: Marian Muste and Bill Eichinger of the UI College of Engineering and IIHR; Alric Rothmayer and R.G. Rajagopalan of the Iowa State University department of aerospace engineering & engineering mechanics; and faculty from Howard University and Cornell University. In addition, Donald Yarbrough of the UI College of Education will lead the evaluation of the modules. FLUENT, Inc. of Lebanon, N.H. will provide training and support for use of CFD/Flowlab templates for the project and will help with implementation and dissemination of the technology using web-based techniques.

Stern, who joined the UI faculty in 1983, is the international leader in developing computational ship hydrodynamics, advanced towing-tank measurement systems for modeling and validation, and computational and experimental uncertainty analysis. A Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), he has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals and has developed revolutionary multimedia methods for integrating classroom lectures, laboratory experiments, and computer simulations, and uncertainty analysis.