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A New Era of Engineering Education

Posted on March 1st, 2018
A male faculty member points to equipment in the Fluids Workshop, while reporters film him and take notes.

IIHR’s James Buchholz points out some of the features of the new Fluids Workshop.

Since the 1940s, IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering (IIHR) has played an important role in the development of experimental equipment and the teaching of fluids engineering concepts. That essential role for IIHR continues today in the new extension of the University of Iowa’s Seamans Center for the Engineering Arts and Sciences. The new Annex—including the Fluids Workshop with wind tunnel, pipe flow experiment, flumes, and more—will lead students into the next century and beyond with expanded educational opportunities and state-of-the-art classroom, research, and study space.

Constructed over a period of 20 months, the $35M Annex reflects the college’s educational goals, including an increased focus on hands-on design training and skills building, as well as instruction and mentoring that brings to life engineering concepts for a new generation of students. The contemporary structure, located near the UI’s historic Pentacrest, offers an additional 65,000 square feet of space for the college.

The Fluids Workshop is one part of a suite of three contiguous labs: the Fluids Workshop, the Fluids Fundamentals Lab, and the Advanced Measurements Lab. The Fluids Workshop was designed to work in concert with the decades-old historic Fluids Laboratory located at IIHR, one of the world’s oldest and most pre-eminent hydraulic research and teaching laboratories.

IIHR’s James Buchholz, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, says that the three laboratories work together to accomplish core teaching and research. Within the walls of the Fluids Fundamentals Lab, students learn fundamental concepts from course lab manuals. In the Fluids Workshop, students work on projects that interest them, including capstone design projects, research with faculty, testing of designs for student organization projects, and other open-ended or creative endeavors.

A male faculty member leans over to watch the flow of water through a flume in the Seamans Center Annex's new Fluids Workshop.

IIHR’s Ricardo Mantilla watches water flow through a flume in the new Fluids Workshop in the Seamans Center Annex.

The Advanced Measurements Lab supports the other two labs with specialized equipment, including:

  • Wind tunnel
  • Water channel
  • Towing tank
  • Open-channel flume

Buchholz gratefully acknowledges a $1M grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust that supported the instrumentation and equipment in the laboratories. Laboratory Engineer Brian Snider will help keep the lab safe and running smoothly.

Buchholz believes the Fluids Workshop will make a difference for students. “We are establishing a learning community that will exist indefinitely, outside of the confines of any single semester or course,” he says.

During construction of the Annex—the cost of which will be covered in part by alumni donations—there was a sense of suspense because plywood walls and plastic sheeting blocked access and views. When those barriers came down in January, students were eager to explore.

“That first day we were literally running through the Annex peeking in classrooms and labs,” says Eddie Graham, a senior biomedical engineering student. “We were all super excited to see what sort of cool things were in the new building.”

More Annex highlights:

  • 128-seat, state-of-the-art, tiered lecture hall with three giant screens
  • 234 solar roof panels with the capacity to produce 76,000 kWh of energy per year, cutting back on energy costs
  • 4,000 square feet of student collaboration space, including more than 200 seats for work groups
  • 2,200 square feet of bioswales, outdoor plantings that reduce storm-water runoff
  • 5,000 square feet of green roofing, including numerous native plants
  • Convergence, a sculpture that symbolizes the connection between technology and art
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