This paper presents the design of new hands-on educational hardware for exploring fluid mechanics and heat transfer concepts and preliminary data on how students understand these ideas. The authors have designed components such as tubes, junctions, and reservoirs that easily snap together via a modular, universal connector that allows students to manipulate fluids as well as visualize and measure flow and heat-related properties. The project aims to help middle-school-aged students learn fundamental fluid mechanics and heat transfer concepts in a hands-on play environment. With this kit, kids will build arbitrary flow rigs to solve fluid mechanics and heat transfer challenge problems. Using the FlowGo kit, they will also be able to conduct experiments and develop new design ideas to solve challenge problems such as building plant watering systems or modeling water and sewage reticulation. Similar kits (such as LEGO Robotics and Circuit kits) for other engineering fields, such as structural and electrical engineering, have resulted in pedagogical improvements, particularly in early engineering education, where visual demonstrations have a significant impact. The FlowGo project will expand on that research to show how this type of hands-on kit can enhance learning in the areas of fluid mechanics and heat transfer. The kit is designed to be suitable for classroom use in connection with the Middle School Next Generation Science Standards in Energy (MS-PS3-2. MS-PS3-3) and Engineering (MS-ETS1-1 through 1-4). A preliminary study, in an informal education setting, tasked 12 students with designing a plant watering system from a single reservoir. The paper will share qualitative video data about how student discussed issues related to flow rate and mass transfer and navigated design problems related to both concepts. Quantitative survey data related to usability and learning related conceptual areas such as energy, mass and heat flow will also be shared. The project is exploring new elements for the FlowGo system that will add to the conceptual base and will also be looking to scale to a classroom setting as well as other informal settings. FlowGo is open source and the paper will also discuss how other people can become involved in the next version of the toolkit.
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