The Columns

Heat, Water, Lasers, Patience

— by on June 12th, 2017

“I am surrounded by classmates that excel in their areas of study, participate in amazing projects, and conduct high-quality research.”


Angel Vela de la Garza Evia ‘18 learned that research is two-parts patience, two-parts fun with lasers

Science, Society, and the Arts is a multi-disciplinary conference where Washington and Lee undergraduates and law students present their academic achievements before an audience of their peers and the faculty. Through the conference, students, faculty and staff alike have the opportunity to explore new topics and discuss new ideas. Conference participants share their work via oral presentations, traditional academic conference-style panels, poster sessions, artistic shows, creative performances, and various other methods.

Even though SSA has ended, you can still enjoy these stories about the many interesting projects and performances the students presented.

Heat Transfer and Open Channel Flow

Can you describe your project?
My research consists of analyzing heat transfer through a heated cylinder. We have a cylinder that is submerged in a water tank. A heat plume is generated as the cylinder gets heated. This plume moves in a cyclical manner. Using lasers and particle image velocimetry analysis, we can measure the effect generated by the placement of plastic clips, of different sizes and shapes, on the cylinder.

What about the topic made you explore it?
The data gathering techniques really caught my attention. What is there not to like about having the chance to use powerful lasers and 3D printers? Likewise, it involved using the drawing software Inventor to design the ideal clip. Overall, I saw this as a project where I could use the skills that I had attained in my classes to design and conduct the experiment.

What was the most interesting thing you have learned while working on this project?
I realized that minute details can influence the results of the experiment. For example, we always had to wait for a whole day to pass for the water tank to stabilize, since the movement of the water would affect data collection. I also did not know how lasers could be used to acquire data. In our case, the laser created a plane of reflective microspheres, and the camera would then capture that movement.

What was the biggest challenge you faced?
We could not get the plastic clips to stay on the cylinder. If one of them fell, then we would lose a whole day’s work since we could not take data. There was a lot of trial and error until we finally designed a clipper that would function properly and stay on the cylinder for at least 16 hours.

What insight or insights did you gain during the research period?
I got the opportunity to develop my patience. Everything must be done carefully and slowly, and then it takes a whole day before I could take data. I realized that research takes time. Even though you want to optimize the process, there are some things that need to be done carefully and calmly.

What is your favorite part of creating, researching or developing this project?
We designed a clip in Inventor (3D CAD software), and then we 3D-printed it. The fact that we can make something on the computer, change it as many times as we want, and within hours have a physical copy of it, is astonishing.  

What does SSA mean to you?
SSA is an opportunity for students to showcase the work that many times goes unheard of. I realized that I am surrounded by classmates that excel in their areas of study, participate in amazing projects, and conduct high-quality research.

Why is considering science, society and arts together important to this campus?
SSA is a way to strengthen and unite the campus community through the sharing of knowledge. By having this event, the university demonstrates that it values the work of its students, faculty and staff. It is here, where you start making interdisciplinary connections. You get exposed to research projects, social panels, and artistic performances from a wide array of subjects. These in turn expand your way of thinking.

Do you know an exceptional student? Someone passionate?
Someone involved? Do you want to see their face on a My W&L profile? Why not nominate them?