ME313L Fluid Mechanics Virtual Laboratory Reimagination

Priscilla Zhao


Course Name & Description: ME313L, Fluid Mechanics Laboratory. 1 unit course that meets 3-hour per week that contains experiments to enhance the knowledge in Fluid Mechanics. Students are also expected to practice acquisition, processing, and analysis of data by manual and automated methods, as well as report writing.

Project Abstract: This project is to develop pilot AR/VR fluid mechancis laboratory experiments that enrich students’ lab experience, stimulate interests, and bring more individual exercise time. At the same time, the proof-of-concept hybric lab model will help alleviate the pressure on department staffing and facilities in the future.

Keywords/Tags: Virtual Reality, Engineering Education

Instructional Delivery: In-class, Hybrid

Pedagogical Approaches: AR/VR

Class Size: 16

About the LIT Redesign (Stage 1)

Background on the Redesign

Why Redesign your Course?

  • Course Characteristics: Physical laboratory experiments are built to provide students with hands-on opportunities and have long been crucial for engineering training. Cal Poly Pomona (CPP) has long been known as the ‘learn-by-doing’ university, and the Mechanical Engineering (ME) department proudly claims to be one of the few in the state that still provide so many hands-on labs to students. Traditionally, the lab is performed with 4 students in a group and a 3-hour session is scheduled to facilitate the exercise. Currently, the biggest constrain to offer more lab sections is the length of the lab and the limited shared space.
  • The Learning Problem: Fluid Mechanics is a very abstract course. Even with the physical experimental setups, it is challenging for the students to visualize the flow inside the enclosed pipes, and how it is related to the equations taught in class.

High Demand/Low Success/Facilities Bottleneck Issues

  • Due to the rapid growth in number of enrollment, there have been increasing waitlisted students each quarter, which started to delay their graduation. Moreover, the space and equipment used by this laboratory course is also shared by three departments: Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Electromechanical Engineering Technology. At the same time, CPP will transit to a semester campus in Fall 2018. This implies that instead of offering 6 sections of the lab course per quarter, ME will need to offer 9 sections per semester to meet the need--a 50% increase in demand for space. It is getting to a point where the facilities will not be enough to serve this current model, and the department will need to balance between the rich hands-on experience and student graduation progress. While traditional lab should never be abandoned, adding virtual labs to assist with it could benefit students and alleviate the pressure on department staffing and facilities.

Course History / Background

  • ME313L is offered to junior/senior level Mechanical Engineering students. Students must have finished Fluid Mechanics I and have taken/are taking Fluid Mechanics II in order to enroll in this course. It does not serve as a pre-req course. It is a required course for the ME major students. Students usually pass this course without problems. However as the enrollment number kept increasing, the individual hands-on time is facing a challenge to shrink.

(Upload syllabus from pre-designed course)

ME313L Syllabus 2017F
ME313L Syllabus Prior to redesign.

About the Students and Instructor(s) (Stage 2)

Student Characteristics

  • Major: ME only
  • Gender: Over 80% male population.
  • Incoming knowledge/skills: The students have finished Fluid Mechanics (I) and have some theoretical knowledge in pumps, pipes, pitot static tubes, manometers and other fluids setups used in the lab session. But most of them do not have much or any previous physical experience with any of the experiment or similar experiment setups.

Advice I Give my Students to be Successful

  • Take a self-guided tour under the 360 virtual lab space and get familiar with the lab environment.
  • Before each experiment, watch the pre-lab instructions under the virtual lab space and get familiar with the setup and the procedures.
  • Come to lab meeting on time and conduct the experiments, collect data.
  • After lab meeting, meet with team members and analyze data and write report.
  • Submit report on time.

Impact of Student Learning Outcomes/Objectives (SLOs) on Course Redesign

  • Introduce students with the real-life problems that involves fluid mechanics
  • Enhance students’ knowledge on fluid mechanics theories learned in previous course
  • Gain hands-on experience working with fluid mechanics experiments
  • Design duct/pipe parameters (materials, dimensions, flow rate, pressure) to meet performance requirements
  • Learn how to collect and analyze data
  • Practice professional writing skill

Alignment of SLOs With LIT Redesign

  • Students will use the guided virtual instruction as a pre-lab activity. This will help them more familiar with the actual experiment and help them perform better during the physical experiment.
  • Once the actual VR virtual lab is developed. It will be used to assist the actual physical lab to collect more data outside the lab meeting session. This way, the quality of exercise will not be hindered, but it helps provide more opportunities for students to interact with the experiment under the virtual setting. Plus, under virtual setting, it allows the students to make mistakes during the experiment without worrying about damaging the equipment or causing danger, which would both add value in student learning.

Assessments Used to Measure Students' Achievement of SLOs

  • During this phase, students will be asked to use the 360/VR virtual lab guided instruction as a pre-lab activity. They will finish a pre-quiz before conducting the experiment. Surveys and focus group with the assistance of faculty members from the department Sociology and Psychology will be administered to students to receive feedbacks on using the virtual lab as well as their attitudes toward the course.

Accessibility, Affordability, and Diversity Accessibility

  • The Virtual lab instruction will be captioned
  • Tag the space image
  • Consult with industry expert in regarding to their considerations in accessibility under VR/AR


  • Currently there is no extra material costs for the students now. The virtual lab instruction will be free for all students taking the course. The 360 virtual lab can be accessed from any computer when there is internet connection. Should the students need to access the VR virtual lab, we will have several available for students to use with assistance.
  • Eventually we are planning to have students able to run the virtual lab under VR environment. Students will take only one set of data during the physical lab meeting time. Then students will collect multiple sets of data in the virtual lab on their own time outside the lab time. This way, lab time is saved with the expectation that the laboratory will be offered in a 2-hour hybrid mode instead of a 3-hour face-to-face mode.Potentially this hybrid mode can result in an additional 30% annual enrollment.


  • The virtual lab will allow students to learn, explore and practice with their own learning style and learning pace. For the 360-pre-lab instruction, they can access it from anywhere at any time based on their convenience. The simulated virtual lab will also be carried outside the lab meeting time, it gives students more flexibility and without a time restriction.

About the Instructor

Portrait of Priscilla Zhao

  • Yitong (Priscilla) ZhaoI am an Assistant Professor at the Mechanical Engineering Department of Cal Poly Pomona. I got my B.S in MEMS major from Tsinghua University in China. Then I moved to the US and joined in Dr. Chih-Ming Ho’s lab at UCLA in 2009. I completed my Ph.D in Biomedical Engineering there in 2014, with the project of biofuel and later developed a unique cell-free system from microalgae that could dramatically increase the production rate of lipids. Currently I am focusing on STEM education and applying VR/AR technology to tackle the challenge of the new age of education.

Curriculum Vitae


  • Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, 2014
  • M.S. in Biomedical Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, 2010
  • B.S. in MEMS (MicroElectricalMechanical System), Department of Precision Instrument, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, 2009


  • Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, California State Polytechnic Pomona, 09/2014-present
  • Lecturer,Department of Mechanical Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 04/2014-06/2014


  • Y. Zhao, Impact of oral exams on a thermodynamics course performance, ASEE Zone IV Conference, March 25th-27th, 2018
  • P.M. Nissenson, F.L. Wachs, J.L. Fuqua, Y. Zhao, S. Pedroza, A. C. Shih, Impact of an online learning environment on student performance and perceptions in a fluid mechanics course, ASEE Annual Conference, June 24th-28th, 2017
  • J. Jaynes, Y. Zhao, H. Xu, C. Ho, Use of Orthogonal Array Composite Designs to Study Lipid Accumulation in a Cell-Free System, Quality and Reliability Engineering International, 24 SEP 2015, DOI: 10.1002/qre.1900


LIT Redesign Planning (Stage 3)

Implementing the Redesigned Course

What aspects of your course have you redesigned?

  • I added 360 lab tour ( as a pre-lab instructional tool. Students were required to watch the tour after the first introduction of our lab session. This guided tour provides students with an overview of the lab space and a brief introduction of the each lab’s objective.
  • My team is also developing one VR virtual lab experiment, where students can do the virtual lab using Oculus Rift. It will be used as an extra experiment for the course in Spring 2019.

What technology is being used?

  • We have used 360 cameras to take pictures which are used to create the 360 virtual lab tour. By using commercially available software, it was easy to build the lab tour. The virtual tour is then uploaded on to a webhost space, and it is easy for students to access from anywhere. And according to students’ feedback, they like the high quality of the pictures, and they like that they can preview the lab space and get an overall view of the course
  • I will be also using virtual reality (VR) to create the simulated lab, which is to enhance more hands-on opportunity for the students.

What professional development activities have you participated during your course redesign?

  • I took a series of Unity classes offered by Unity: help build the basic knowledge of using Unity as a tool to develop contents.

Which Additional Resources Were Needed for the Redesign?

  • I would really like to get collaborations across majors. The coding part of Unity is very complex, and the learning curve is steep. It takes time and experience to do one really good and interactive game (in our case, the lab experiment). Also, I would like to have visual designers to collaborate as well. It also takes years of experience to make objects to look real under the simulation.

(Upload your revised syllabus here)

ME3131L Redesigned Syllabus

LIT Results and Findings (Stage 4)

LIT Redesign Impact on Teaching and Learning

  • How has the course redesign strategies affected your instruction and your students’ learning? Did your redesign strategy solve the issues that motivated you to redesign the course?
  • Describe how your students mastered the student learning outcomes. Were the students more successful in the redesigned course than in previous courses? Explain.
  • Did you experience unexpected results after teaching the redesigned course? If so, what were they?
  • Consider attaching a more in-depth report describing the impact of your activities and experiences during the course redesign as a document/link/image. If possible consider including samples of students' work that reflect the impact of the redesign.

Assessment Findings

  • Use table and chart template to report course data (required).
  • Upload table and chart from your template (required) and reflect on your findings with a short description. You must include a course grades comparison of pre/post student achievements.
  • Share how your students achieved the learning outcomes? Describe how they mastered the learning outcomes compared to previous courses?

Student Feedback

  • What did your students say or how did they respond to the redesigned activities? Consider including your students' comments about their learning. Include survey results if you are able to capture them. Include student video feedback (optional).

Challenges my Students Encountered

  • What challenges did the students encounter in the redesigned activities? E.g., technical challenges, organization of course, and redesigned activities.

Lessons Learned & Redesign Tips

Teaching Tips

  • What advice do you have for others who might want to use this redesigned course?

Course Redesign Obstacles

  • What challenges did you confront and how did you overcome them?

Strategies I Used to Increase Engagement

  • What pedagogical strategies did you use in your new redesigned course to engage students?


  • How do plan to sustain the LIT redesign beyond the funding period?

Instructor Reflection

  • Reflect on your participation in redesigning a course, development of an ePortfolio, participation in CSU Course Redesign Professional Learning Community Share any plans to disseminate/publish the findings of your course redesign activity.