Centrifugal Pump Project


  • JS Designs (JSD) wants to hire engineering interns who can
    • run their own show (i.e. solve open ended problems; be self-directed)
    • create great results
    • learn technical knowledge "on the go" during the course of a project
    • design and carryout experiments
    • document technical work "on the go" (no rewriting) during the course of a project
    • communicate clearly
    • learn and grow while doing a project
    • collaborate while also being a "strong individual"
  • JSD designs, builds, tests, and markets Centrifugal Pumps (CPs) in a variety of sizes. They want engineers who can work in any aspect of their business including helping customer understand pumps and pump curves.
  • The basic goals of the project are
    • Design an experiment to measure the pump curve, the efficiency, and the power of a CP.
    • Present data showing the pump curve for your CP
    • Present data showing the power requirements for your CP
    • Present data showing the efficiency for your CP
  • To select engineers for hiring, JSD decides to run a contest.
  • Ed, the owner of JSD, gives you the following instructions.
    • Work in teams of 4
    • Find you own centrifugal pump1 that pumps water.2
    • Project is due COB on Monday
    • Organized and submit your work by task (see below).
    • Get the job done with 4 hrs of work per person on the team.

Basic Knowledge

While there are 100s or 1000s of types of pump and turbines, all machines can be organized into three categories as shown below. An example of a positive displacement pump is a piston pump such as a bicycle tire pump. Another example is a spray bottle. Examples of CPs are shown on the diagram.


A centrifugal pump (CP) uses a rotating impeller to increase the energy of a flowing fluid. Examples include a computer fan and the water pump shown below


CPs are characterized by measuring pump head as a function of volumetric flow rate. The reason for measurement is that the flow inside a pump is typically turbulent, 3D, etc. (challenging to predict accurately from a math model). Thus, pumps are characterized using experimental data. A typical pump curve looks like


The diagram below shows the standard way to measure a pump curve. Delta-p is the pressure rise measured across the pump. The basic process is

  • step 1. adjust the valve
  • step 2. measure delta p & Q corresponding to this valve opening; use this data to calculate hp
  • step 3. measure E-dot-electrical for use in determining efficiency
  • step 4. change the value setting to give a different value to Q; repeat for Q ranging from 0 to the maximum value.
  • step 5. plot hp, efficiency, and power as a function of flow rate

Task 1. Motivations and Goals.

Situation. Ed says that he wants engineers who can make any project motivating for themselves, their teammates, and their clients. He wants engaged professionals who set goals and reach these goals.
a. What is motivating to each team member? What aspects of this project connect with "who you are" as a professional?
b. What are your goals? Are your goals SMART? Are your goals self-concordant?

Deliverables. What Ed expect you to submit.
a. A list of motivations (2 to 5) for team member #1. (repeat for each team member #2, #3, and #4)
b. SMART goals for this project.

Quality. What Ed is looking for
- Insightful self-knowledge of motivations by each team member.
- Self-concordant goals
- Challenging goals
- Specific (i.e. measurable) goals.

- Connect! > Concepts > goals, self-concordant goals, socially-concordant goals
- Google "SMART goals"
- An article on self-concordant goals.

Task 2. KC on Centrifugal Pumps.

Situation. Ed wants engineers who can learn new knowledge and teach this to team members as part of the process of doing a project. Ed asks you to do KC and suggests that everyone on your team should be able to answer the following questions:
a. What is energy? What is power? Differences? What is head? How is head related to energy and power?
b. What is mechanical efficiency? How would you determine this for a cp? How can you separate out the efficiency of the pump from the efficiency of the motor that drives the pump?
c. What is a pump? What is a centrifugal pump? Why learn about centrifugal pumps?
d. What is "pump head"? How is this related to energy? To power?
e. What is a pump curve? How is a pump curve measured? Why is a pump curve measured instead of being calculated?

Deliverables. What Ed expect you to submit.
Handwritten documentation (perhaps 2 to 5 pages) of KC on relevant topics such as centrifugal pumps, pump curves, and pump head. Use whatever format of notetaking works best for you.

Quality. What great engineering looks like.
- Foundational concepts are documented.
- Explanation of these concepts in simple, clear ways.
- Sketches, diagrams, visuals are used to communicate knowledge.
- Personalized (own way) of explaining things3
- Informal citations in your documentation so knowledge sources came be found again.

Task 3. Experiment Design.

Situation. Ed says that he wants engineers who can design experiments before they do them and structure this process. Ed asks you the following questions
a. Situation. What pump will you be testing? Do you have a photo?
b. Goals. What data will you be presenting in your results? How many data points?
c. Ideas.
- What are your options for measuring flow rate? Which will you choose? Why?
- What are your options for measuring pressure? Your choice? Why?
- How will you measure efficiency? How will you measure power? How will you separate pump efficiency from motor efficiency?
d. Plan. What steps are you going to take to reach your goals.
e. Review. What did you learn during the process of designing your experiment? What did you do well (strengths), How can you improve in the future?

Deliverables. What Ed expect you to submit.
Handwritten documentation (1 to 2 pages) organized into sections: situation, goal, ideas, plan, review.

Quality. What great engineering looks like.
- Completeness. Documentation provides details so that you or another class member could replicate the experiment three years from now by following the documentation.
- Technical depth. Details and application of engineering principles in useful ways.
- Plan is presented "step-by-step" in a clear and specific way.
- Experiment is simple (all equipment and instruments can be obtained in short time (e.g. 1 hr or less) and with a low budget (less than $12)).
- Experiment is simple so that it can be completed in short time (e.g. 1 hr or less).
- Statistical principles are applied.
- Pump head and flow rate will be measured in valid ways.

Task 4. Experiment Execution

Handwritten documentation organized into the following sections

  • Situation. sketch (or photo) of your experiment. shows instruments, measurement locations, describes pump under test.
  • Goals. Describes the results you are going to get (can cite previous doc).
  • Action.
    • Data. presents all data recorded during your experiment.
    • Data processing. show how you processed your data to produce your final results.
    • Results. present your final results in a very clear way. Ed doesn't not want to search to find the results.


  • Experimental apparatus is described clearly and completely
  • Data is presently clearly and completely
  • How data is processed to produce goals is clear and complete
  • Results are clear, easy to understand, valid

Task 5. Reflective Thinking.

Situation. Ed want engineers who can reflect on their experiences and learn so that they do their next project better. Ed wants engineers who can distinguish quality work from "bull shiitake." Ed asks you the following questions?

a. What is your level of performance on each task: 1, 2, 3, 4? 5 Are your level 5 or level 1? Why?
b. What did you do well? What are your improvements for your next project? What new knowledge did you discover?
c. How well did you like this quiz? (5star = rocks, 1star = sucks). What features were most helpful to your learning and growth? How can the quiz be improved so that you will learn more, grow more, do the project in an easier way, etc.?

a. Document your assessment of your performance on tasks 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5. This example shows how.
b. An SII done by the team with 3 strengths, 3 improvements, and 2 insights.
c. Feedback on the quiz (1 short paragraph to 1 page depending on how much input you'd like to give).

Quality. What Ed is looking for
- Assessment is presented using data and evidence (not emotions and opinion).
- Assessment provides an accurate picture of where you are at.
- Strengths are specific plus they are important for great engineering.
- Improvements are specific, important for great engineering and simple so that they can be acted on
- Insights are generalized so they apply to many projects and to many contexts
- Feed back on the quiz is specific and useful by Dr. Elger so he can make the next quiz better for his students.

What to submit

Cover sheet that lists the tasks for this project. Cover sheet should be annotated with your self assessment as shown by this example.. Staple all tasks to the cover sheet. As usual, fold in half and label on the outside.

How you will be graded

  • Level of performance will be calculated by using: [(Level on Task1 + Level on Task5) * 3 + (Level on Task 2 + Level on 3 + Level 4) * 5 ] / (2*3 + 3*5).
  • Extra Credit. The best team in the class will be awarded extra credit (one level bump up). Plus, they get bragging rights.
  • Counts 4x in grade book; goes in quiz grades.
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