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Fluid Mechanics 101 – The Class That Changed My Life

I was 20 years old and 18 months away from finishing my formal education. Forever. I was well on my way to being a…structural engineer. Wait, that must be a typo. Structural? Really? Where did the fluids come in?

I really liked structural mechanics and that was where I was focused for the first 2.5 years of my mechanical engineering studies. My class in Statics with Dr. Eberhart helped reinforce this interest.

In the middle of my 3rd year, I had a required class in fluid mechanics. Ahead of me was 20 weeks (2 quarter classes) on this topic. It was required for me to graduate and get my BSME degree. Dr. McLean (1st quarter) and Dr. Vanyo (2nd quarter) of fluids stood in my way.

Looking back, I can say fluid flow was not love at first sight. But by the end of that first class with Dr. McLean I did fall in love with fluids. The second class with Dr. Vanyo confirmed my newfound love. To top it off, I got the top score out of over 100 students in Dr. Vanyo's class.

It was then that I realized I was not going to be able to live the rest of my life without learning more about this topic. For the first time I opened the ME course catalog to the back where it discussed graduate classes. I realized my formal education was not going to end in 18 months after all. I was going to pursue a Master's degree so I could learn more about this fascinating topic in which I had fallen in love.

I began to take every elective course I could on fluid mechanics. In my senior year I started an independent studies program where I built a new experiment for one of my professors, Dr. Marschall. I did not realize then that this would become my Master's Thesis work on fluid droplet formation (see Drop formation in liquid-liquid systems). During this time an elective class in compressible flow started my interest in gas flow. This was followed by a graduate class in compressible flow.

After finishing my MSME I went to work in the aerospace and power industries where I gained experience in liquid flow, compressible gas flow, sonic choking, two-phase flow, waterhammer, thermodynamics, aeroheating, cryogenics and thermal hydraulics. I founded AFT in 1994 and have since been able to expand into non-newtonian fluids, settling slurries, pump and system interaction, numerical optimization of fluid systems, and pipe system acoustic natural frequency analysis.

The last few years I have been invited to speak at several local Colorado engineering universities and have been able tell students about the class that changed my life – Fluid Mechanics 101. 

Me addressing an ASME student chapter meeting - CU Boulder, April 2019
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Wednesday, 22 March 2023
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