83rd Annual

Monday, 10 February 2003
The Weather and Climate Laboratory: an experiment in teaching rotating fluids to undergraduates at MIT
John Marshall, MIT, Cambridge, MA; and L. Illari
It is rare for courses in fluid dynamics to be remembered as defining educational experiences at our schools and universities. This is in large part, we believe, because laboratory experiment and demonstration seldom plays a central role. In recent years we have been developing laboratory-based courses at MIT in which artfully chosen experiments based on ‘research classics’ are used to demonstrate principles of rotating fluid mechanics, cultivate physical intuition and nurture and develop experimental skills. Students and faculty have found it a very rewarding experience.

We share our experiences in teaching a laboratory based undergraduate course at MIT – the Weather and Climate Laboratory – which combines a rotating fluids lab with use of real-time meteorological observations to explore some basic principles of rotating fluids. The undergraduate course, which is now recognized by MIT as an ‘Institute Laboratory’, is providing the context in which, over the next three years, we develop and evaluate the experiments and teaching methods.

Our target audience is sophomores, juniors and seniors majoring in earth science or environmental engineering. But a wide range of students from other science or engineering disciplines could also benefit.

The course web contains descriptions of the fluid experiments and all associated material: http://paoc.mit.edu/12307/

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